Andy Ross 2017-08-20
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BLOG 2017

Bannon the Barbarian
is back at Breitbart
"Steve is now unchained"
"He's going nuclear"



Activist and Nobel prizewinner
Malala Yousafzai wins place
to study PPE at Oxford


2017 August 20

Brexit — Legal Confusion?

Catherine Barnard

Brexiteers vilify the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But the ECJ in Luxembourg scored a win for the City of London when it ruled that the ECB was wrong to insist that euro clearing houses should be based in the EZ.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg is the one that ruled on prisoners' voting rights and that obstructed the path of UK efforts to deport Abu Qatada.

Brexiteers hate letting a foreign court tell British courts what to do. But the ECJ only interprets the meaning of EU law. The UK courts apply that interpretation to the facts.

Given the proximity of the UK customs union with the EU customs union, any judgments of the ECJ on the EU customs union will put UK courts under a strong obligation to interpret UK law in the light of ECJ judgments.

After Brexit, any future ECJ judgments will be drafted without the benefit of British judges sitting on its bench and British lawyers arguing the case. The UK has punched above its weight in getting its way — all that will be lost.

2017 August 19


Aaron James

What the surfer knows, in knowing how to ride a wave, bears on questions about freedom, control, happiness, society, our relation to nature, the value of work, and the meaning of life.

For someone to be surfing, three conditions must be met:
1 He must be attuned to a shifting phenomenon outside of himself, like a wave.
2 He must be adapting himself in response to it, so as to be carried along by its propulsive forces.
3 He must be doing so intentionally and for its own sake.

Adaptive attunement captures a meaningful sense of freedom consistent with being trapped by the laws of nature. Freedom is a matter of transcending your will and accepting the exchange between what you intend to do and what you are constrained to do by the forces around you. You take what the wave gives you.


Robert Wright

On my first retreat I had an experience that bordered on hallucinogenic. At first I was, like, whoa. I mean, this is my first retreat, right? And at first it's like red and purple and I'm like: Whoa, this is a new place. What I observed was actually in a sense that thought, except that what it looked like was one entity saying it to another, and I realized it was kind of like the inside of my mind.

Our ordinary way of seeing things is pretty deeply confused. You have apprehensions that are quite different from your ordinary way of experiencing things. Like you're meditating on a retreat, and you feel that the tingling in your foot is no more a part of you than a bird that's singing.

2017 August 18


Stefan Wagstyl

Germany is a rich country, with the highest income per head of the larger EU countries, comfortably ahead of Britain, France, and Italy. Unemployment is the lowest in the EU.

But the disparities between rich and poor loom large for many Germans, who have long believed they live in an unusually fair society, after WW2 swept away old elites and left a more equal country.

On household income, Germany is close to the EU average. But on wealth, Germany is significantly less equal than its EU peers. The gap has widened for the same reasons as elsewhere — globalization and technological change.

— Fewer than half of Germans own their own homes. The rest rent. The market delivers affordable housing but discourages investment in home ownership.

— German state pensions are generous for most people who are employed full-time for most of their working lives. They are a reliable way of financing old age.

— German inheritance tax law favors business owners. The rules largely exempt fortunes invested in productive companies as long as the heirs promise to maintain jobs.

Parliamentary elections in September offer Germans a chance to make their voices heard. SPD leader Martin Schulz pledges to raise taxes on the well-paid to finance tax cuts for those on lower incomes. Chancellor Angela Merkel offers tax cuts for all, funded from the budget surpluses.

Trump — Toast

Before composing his ode to the statues of Confederate leaders, Donald Trump tore into two Republican senators who had dared to criticize him for what he said about Charlottesville. To get any trade or tax legislation through Congress, the White House will need the overwhelming support of Republicans in Congress. Even assuming that Trump will survive this latest horror show, he has moved onto political ground that makes it virtually impossible for other people to stand with him.

Steve Bannon — Fired

2017 August 17


Steve Bannon

We're at economic war with China. They're not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.

There’s no military solution to North Korea, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us.

To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're 5 years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover.

Biological Mutations

Jordana Cepelewicz

Bacteria have a DNA repair mechanism for when their genomes are damaged. Dozens of genes become active and the rate of mutation goes up. The extra mutations are often detrimental but they enable adaptation.

There may be a mechanism that drives more mutation in regions of the genome where it could be most adaptive. DNA often contains multiple copies of extended sequences of base pairs or genes because mistakes can occur when cells replicate their DNA. If the replication mechanism stalls, usually it can restart and pick up where it left off. Sometimes it goes back to the beginning and accidentally deletes a gene sequence or makes extra copies of it. Perhaps these copying errors are more likely to hit genes that are actively responding to environmental stresses.

This mechanism can arise entirely through Darwinian selection of random mutations to give a process that stimulates nonrandom mutations at useful sites.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth  — its F-35B aircraft have not yet been built

Racist Republicans
Edward Luce

The US commander-in-chief
is giving succor to Neonazis.
US democracy is heading
toward civil breakdown.

German Growth

German GDP grew 0.6% in Q2
and 0.7% in Q1. Performance
was in line with EZ average.
German year-on-year
growth was 2.1%.

ING economist Carsten Brzeski:
"There is very little reason to
fear a sudden end to the
current performance."

Zapad 2013

 "The only way to preserve
free and frictionless trade
with the European Union is
continued membership of
the customs union, as well
as the single market."
Chris Leslie

American Reality
Kurt Andersen

Americans believe in heaven
and in miracles. Surveys show
the reality-based community
is a minority in America.
Being American means
we can believe anything
we want.

No No To Nukes

The American public would
not stop a president from
using nuclear weapons in war. Under pressures like those
facing President Harry Truman
in 1945, a clear majority of
the public would support the
first use of nukes now,
as it did then.

Alenia Aermacchi
Luftwaffe Typhoon
with 2 x Taurus
mission concept

The ROK Air Force would
attack NK hard targets with
Taurus KEPD 350, an ALSM
made in Germany



Saturday afternoon

"Cometh the hour,
cometh the Mogg"


Rolf Peter Sieferle und seine

Renters Alliance


2017 August 16

Trump Trash

Yair Rosenberg

Charlottesville, Virginia, last Friday night: White nationalists brandished torches, chanted Nazi slogans, and waved a banner: "Jews are Satan's children."

Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke: "The truth is, the American media, and the American political system, and the American Federal Reserve, is dominated by a tiny minority: the Jewish Zionist cause .. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."

Alt-right luminary Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville's Jewish mayor Mike Signer: "Little Mayor Signer — 'See-ner' — how do you pronounce this little creep's name?"

Crowd: "Jew, Jew, Jew."

Google Genes

Daniel Finkelstein

I was not surprised to learn that Google fired James Damore. I think he made a number of errors. Research on differences in the sexes finds them to be quite small, and they do not show women are less fitted for roles in technology and leadership.

The notion that there is something right wing about discussing genes is ridiculous. What we are learning about genes and behavior is a more serious challenge to the right than to the left. There is a connection between genes and behavior.

No argument gets far by ignoring science and common sense. Far from supporting racism, genetic research questions whether race even exists. Debating the relationship between nature and social outcomes helps us understand discrimination.

If some people are naturally less able to make their way in the world than others, then it may not be enough to allow equal opportunity. Genes make the case for redistribution. Progressives need not fear acknowledging the role of genes.



In Russia and Belarus, preparations are underway for Zapad, a major military exercise to be held in September. Of all the exercises in the Russian military calendar, quadrennial Zapad is the one that most closely resembles practice for invading neighbors.

The United States, NATO, and states bordering Russia will be watching closely to learn what they can about the latest Russian capabilities and military procedures. Russia has previously used the fact of troops on the move for exercises to launch real military operations.

Belarus is an ally of Russia but has no antagonism toward the West and wants instead to remain neutral between Russia and NATO. The authorities in Minsk have invited military observers and defense attachés from a large number of countries and international organizations.

NATO states have made small temporary increases in defensive assets in the Baltic states as a precaution.

Brexit Battle

Financial Times

The UK government Brexit paper on future customs arrangements accepts the UK will need a transitional customs union to avoid a catastrophic shock in March 2019. DExEU SoS David Davis calls the lack of detail "constructive ambiguity".

To maintain frictionless trade with the EU, the UK will need to continue the regulation that underpins the single market. Beyond the transition period, the plans envisage either a streamlined customs arrangement using new technology or a new customs partnership that can reliably track goods through international supply chains.

The European Commission says only membership of the customs union and single market will deliver frictionless trade.

Brexit Britain — Urbane, Unhinged

Rafael Behr

Hollywood saw long ago that a British accent makes a fine complement to evil villainy. The center ground of British politics is gone. Beyond our shores, no one thinks Brexit is consistent with the nobler traditions of British statecraft.

Tory radicals cast themselves as swashbuckling adventurers, freeing the UK to find riches on the high seas. But another archetype casts Brexiteers as fanatics urging chaos in honeyed tones, sheathing villainy in gentility.

AR Beware the Mogg.

2017 August 15

Have Cake And Eat It

The Guardian

The UK government will seek a temporary deal with the EU for a few years after Brexit.

A deal with the EU to retain the benefits of customs union for a transitional period would give businesses and officials time to gear up for a new customs regime and give the UK time to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries. During the transition Britain would not be party to the EU treaties.

The EU will have to decide whether it would accept such an arrangement.

No Right Case For Brexit

Polly Toynbee

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an authentic reactionary. A rampant Brexiteer and a Trump defender, he is a
hard-right Tory, from climate-change denial to praise for disability cuts, from attacking the BBC to abhorrence of regulation.

He wants to cut taxes. He says this brings in more revenue: "Generally people will spend their own money more effectively than the government, and there is no money at all except that earned by the private sector."

Wrong. We need a strong state to guarantee property rights, basic public services for the workforce, and so on. Try running a business in a failed state.

No Left Case For Brexit

Ben Chu

If Labour supporters want a glimpse of what their 2017 election manifesto would look like in practice, they only need to cross the Channel.

In France, university tuition is funded by the taxpayer. In Portugal and Slovakia, domestic energy consumers enjoy price caps. In Germany, there is a network of public savings banks. In Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Austria, train companies are public. In Luxembourg and Belgium, there are no zero-hour contracts. In Sweden and Denmark, the state takes half of national income in tax.

The EU is a bastion of social democracy. The Leftist case for Brexit is flimsy. The idea that the EU is a neoliberal project is daft.

AR No good case on either side for Brexit.

2017 August 14

America — Locked and Loaded

Gideon Rachman

Donald Trump's threats that North Korea risks fire and fury from a locked and loaded America put American credibility on the line and prompts escalation by the Kim Jong Un regime. He is flirting with a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. All previous presidents have rejected pre-emptive attacks on nuclear-armed states.

The crisis that Trump is stoking is increasingly inseparable from the domestic problems besieging his administration. The investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian intervention in the US election is getting ever closer to the Trump inner circle. Congress is deadlocked and the White House is a hive of sackings and scheming.

The idea that the threat of war could lead Americans to rally around the president should sound alarm bells for anyone with a sense of history. Governments facing a domestic crisis are often more inclined to adventurism abroad. Leaders under severe domestic political pressure are also more likely to behave irrationally.

Tech Sexism

Lara Williams

James Damore: "Philosophically, I don't think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women."

As an engineer in Google, Damore wrote a memo full of of bad science and biological determinism. He said women are intrinsically different to men, with more openness, interest in people over things, preference for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, and so on.

Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths. Damore portrays women as a product of inherited traits without social and cultural influence. His assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

Damore: "We ask why we don't see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs, These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life."

Men do not have biological predisposition toward stressful hours any more than women do. A balanced and fulfilling life is different if you do most of the domestic labor and child rearing. An aggressively masculine "bro" culture makes those long office hours even worse.

Free the Queen!

Kevin Maguire

Britain's most troubled family is way past its sell-by date and living on borrowed time. We should consign the UK to the dustbin of history and embrace the future as the British Republic.

Ending the monarchy is not the most pressing challenge confronting these islands. Yet in its own little way the dusty institution is a block to decency and progress. Royal inherited wealth and habits of deference give respectability to unearned riches and grotesque inequality.

Criticism of royalty is not treason. In an age of austerity there are better ways to spend £369 million than tarting up Buckingham Palace. The royals live in a gilded cage — free them!

2017 August 13


Roger Scruton

Conservatism is the attempt to conserve our community in all matters that ensure our long-term survival and mutual support.

Peace, security, democracy, and historic liberties all depend on a shared sense of belonging among strangers whom we can trust; on traditions of education, cooperation, and compromise; on the Christian legacy of neighbourly love and a tradition of tolerance. They depend upon institutions and forms of life that are the legacy of our attempts to live together as a nation on our island.

Changes have occurred that can unwind those relations of dependence:

The mass immigration of communities who define their political membership in religious
    rather than secular terms
The transfer of sovereignty from parliament to unelected officials in foreign countries
    and foreign courts of law
The disruption of the common law by the abolition of the tutelary office of lord chancellor
    and the creation of a supreme court
The assault on national unity caused by creating a Scottish parliament while leaving the
    English with no assembly of their own

Conservative politicians have a duty to articulate the idea of a diverse but unified civil society and its corporate persona. We have blundered into a condition of mass immigration with no philosophy to justify the attempt to limit it.

In the Brexit vote, the only ideas that emerged were economic, as though the "we" of national sovereignty were merely a matter of being as wealthy as we possibly can. Reducing every question to economics is the fundamental error of the Marxists.


The Sunday Times

Jacob Rees-Mogg is an unlikely outsider. His old-world civility does not suggest much appeal to young voters. But at 48 he is social-media savvy and benefits from suggestions that the Conservatives should skip a generation.

Lunchtime Thoughts

Jacob Rees-Mogg

As a constituency MP I am always seeking to represent the people remote from the centres of power, rather than the interests of lobby groups.

The problem with the European Union is we can be outvoted by a qualified majority vote and therefore laws can be passed that the British people have not only not consented to but have opposed. Some Remoaners think that the people that voted for Brexit were all stupid.

I'm a back-bench MP. My ambition is to be re-elected in North East Somerset. It would be unrealistic of me to have further ambitions. I'm very interested in political ideas, developing Conservative thinking, and I'm very keen that we should have a positive message for Conservatism.

My family is the most important thing. I've got six lovely, delightful children. I'm very lucky. I have a wonderful wife who looks after us all.

Party Pooper

Matthew Parris

Jacob Rees-Mogg is a reactionary with the intellectual nimbleness of a top QC and the opinions of a Colonel Blimp. On Europe, his instincts would take Britain crashing out with no deal at all.

A British Crisis

David Miliband

Britain is suffering a governability crisis. The implementation of the EU referendum decision has been rash and chaotic. The EU is a coalition of democratic states which pledge to advance human rights, the rule of law, and democratic rules. That is the team to be in.

2017 August 12


Ken Mogi

Loosely translated, ikigai is your purpose in life, from the Japanese iki (to live) and gai (reason).
It's your reason for getting up in the morning.

An ikigai is something that gives you pleasure and purpose — walking the dog, drinking green tea, or writing a book.


Ian Buruma

The Memory of Justice is a long (2 h 38 m) documentary directed by Marcel Ophuls about wartime atrocities that has rarely been seen since 1976. In it, the Nazi leaders, one after the other, declared their innocence in the Nuremberg courtroom; Yehudi Menuhin said he assumed every human being was guilty; and Telford Taylor, US counsel for the prosecution at Nuremberg, asked how any of us would cope with the degeneration of standards under pressure.

Ophuls was a superb interviewer, often skeptical, never moralistic or aggressive. Perhaps his most disturbing interview was with Otto Kranzbühler, who was defense counsel for Admiral Dönitz at Nuremberg and later had a successful career as a corporate lawyer. Kranzbühler said of the Third Reich: if you were ignorant of what went on, you were a fool; if you knew, but looked the other way, you were a coward; if you knew, and took part, you were a criminal.

AR I watched (parts of) a serialization of the movie on TV in Germany (or the whole of a short cut —
I forget).

2017 August 11

UK Homeless Crisis

Abi Wilkinson

UK homelessness is rising. Unless changes are made, the number of people made homeless in Britain will double to 575,000 by 2041. Homelessness has already doubled since 2010.

When local council budgets were cut, housing support services suffered. When housing benefit was removed for young people, many were forced onto the streets. When a cap was imposed on the maximum amount a household can receive in welfare, housing benefit was cut.

The charity Crisis suggests remedial measures:
— A 60% increase in new housing
— Adequate funding for local councils
— Mental health support for rough sleepers

We must press the government to address the crisis.

UK Rental Crisis

Ben Kentish

Millions of UK tenants are living in homes that contain dangerous safety hazards and are unfit for habitation. Over a quarter of homes rented from private landlords fail to meet the national Decent Homes Standard.

English Housing Survey data reveals 795,000 homes rented from private landlords currently contain hazards such as dangerous boilers, exposed wiring, overloaded electricity sockets, and vermin infestations.

Private landlords are significantly worse at maintaining their properties than homeowners or social housing providers and are more than twice as likely as social landlords to be renting out a property containing a serious safety hazard.

Local councils are struggling. LGA housing spokesman Martin Tett: "Councils need more resources from government to help councils build more homes for rent, supported by adequate infrastructure and services, and incentives to help raise standards in the private rented sector."

Private rents have risen by 22% since 2010. Between a third and a half of renting households say they struggle to pay their rent each month. Yet they are fearful of voicing concerns. Over 50,000 private renting households were put at risk of eviction in 2016, and almost 20,000 private renting households were evicted by bailiffs.

A government spokesman: "While the number of homes failing to meet the Decent Homes Standard has gone down since 2007, we know there's more to do."

Brexit Bill — Liberty Loss

The Times

Britons will lose their right to sue the government for breaking the law over air pollution. At present an ECJ ruling enables citizens to sue member states for damages if their rights are infringed by a failure to implement EU law.

A proposal in the EU repeal bill would invalidate claims against the government for failing to enforce EU air pollution standards. At present the government is potentially liable under what is known as the Francovich ruling.

A clause in the repeal bill: "There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich."

Liberty director Martha Spurrier: "Putting the government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit."

AR Strong state — cowed citizens


"Let's become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un!"
Pyongyang, August 9


"They will be met with fire
and fury like the world
has never seen"
Donald Trump, 2017

"They may expect a rain
of ruin from the air,
the like of which has
never been seen"
Harry Truman, 1945

Aurora Borealis
Lofoten Links, Norway

lässt das deutsche

Peveril Point

Ex Machina

"To Irish republicans, Brexit
is a golden opportunity for
pushing unification"
Simon Jenkins



Irish Challenge

Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar
says Brexit is the challenge of
our generation: "We will do all
we can, in Brussels, in London,
and in Dublin, to achieve the
best outcome for everyone
on this island."

Lovell telescope
Jodrell Bank
The Lovell radio telescope at
Jodrell Bank is 60 years old

Dow Jones index over 22,000
Apple valued at $827 billion

Black holes
Ripples in Spacetime
Govert Schilling, Martin Rees

The Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-wave Observatory
(LIGO) was conceived decades
ago and bankrolled by the NSF.
By 2015, about a thousand
scientists and engineers were
working on the project, racking
up costs of more than a billion
dollars. LIGO detected waves
from colliding black holes in
2015 and announced the
discovery in 2016.


Frank Ramsey

As an undergraduate at
Cambridge, Ramsey befriended
Ludwig Wittgenstein. He then
translated Wittgenstein's
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
from German into English and
supervised Wittgenstein at
Cambridge. Ramsey proved his
famous theorem as a lemma
along the way to solving a
special case of the decision
problem for first-order logic.
Ramsey died in 1930,
aged 26.


2017 August 10

North Korea

Mark Bowden

Korea and the Kim dynasty are standing up to a powerful and menacing foreign enemy. Nukes are needed to repel this threat. Kim Jong Un is the anointed defender of all Koreans, the purest of all races.

The NK regime plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against US forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. NK leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force US-SK leaders to recoil from their invasion.

America has four broad options for dealing with North Korea:

1 Prevention. An all-out US-SK attack would defeat NK military forces and topple the Kim dynasty. It would be the most massive US military attack since the first Korean war and would likely trigger one of the worst mass killings in human history. It would depend on surprise and speed — but the Kim dynasty has been on the alert for three generations. Even if the strike succeeded, it would cause the largest humanitarian crisis of modern times.

2 Punishment. The US response to the next NK provocation could be sharp enough to set back the regime but not massive. Key to a limited strike is the pause that comes after. Kim and his generals would have time to think. But once the shooting starts, containing it may be difficult. Even if Kim did perceive limited intent in a first strike, he would correctly see it as an assault on his nuclear arsenal and a step on a road to regime change. He would expect a wider war.

3 Decapitation. US and SK troops recently rehearsed a strike to remove the NK wartime command structure. The US-SK war plan calls for strikes targeting NK leaders. But decapitation would be a huge gamble.

4 Acceptance. There are no good military options. Pyongyang is constrained by the same logic that has stayed the use of nuclear arms for some 70 years. It is hard to imagine Pyongyang disarming anytime soon, but creating a framework that makes it conceivable is the only sensible way forward.

2017 August 9

Climate Change

The New York Times

A 673-page draft report by scientists from 13 US federal agencies, not yet made public, concludes that the average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years.

The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.3 K of warming over this century compared with today. The projected actual rise will be 2 K.

The report directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain. Scientists say they fear that the Trump administration could change or suppress the report.

How The Moon Was Made

Rebecca Boyle

Some 4.5 Gy ago, the young Sun was surrounded by a hot, donut-shaped cloud of debris. This stuff swirled around, cooling and combining into clumps, then planetesimals, then planets. These bodies frequently collided and vaporized one another anew, until the Earth and the Moon were forged.

Theia, a body the size of Mars, collided with Earth. The collision produced a disk around the Earth that cooled and solidified to form the Moon. Simulations show Theia could shear away enough of Earth and scramble enough of both to build a Moon and Earth with similar isotopic ratios.

Simon Lock and Sarah Stewart say every bit of Earth and Theia vaporized and formed a bagel-shaped cloud they call a synestia. The cloud spun so fast that it became a fat disk circling an inner region. The fat disk was a cloud of molten rock that eventually cooled to form the Moon.

The Moon is unique in the solar system in having about 1% the mass of Earth and 80% of the angular momentum of the Earth—Moon system. Perhaps the Moon was formed by at least a dozen projectiles coming in from multiple angles and speeds to form moonlets that then merged.

North Korean Nukes

Washington Post

North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, says a new analysis by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

The North Korean military threat is advancing rapidly. US officials say Pyongyang is outpacing expectations in its effort to build an ICBM capable of striking cities on the US mainland.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization.

Taking Down Kim

Brandon Webb

It would be easy for the United States to take out the entire North Korean leadership with a special operations unit. The intelligence capability and the special ops capability we have today is incredible. Most people have no idea how effective we are at conducting these missions.

The military and special ops community constantly rehearse scenarios — Delta Force Night Stalker helicopters could do a high altitude, high opening parachute op from across the border of South Korea, and then fly under the canopy, undetected — all sorts of scenarios.

Tories Holding Out for a Hero

Paul Goodman

Ruth Davidson is a gay kick-boxer from a Scottish comprehensive who once praised Attlee socialism and now leads the Conservative party in Scotland. Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton and Oxford, got rich in the City, and is now a backbench Conservative MP. She backed Remain, he backed Leave.

Both have more popularity within the party than its leadership. Davidson regularly tops a monthly league table on ConservativeHome. Rees-Mogg says he will not stand, but he would have come second this month if he had. Scores of party members wrote in his name when they responded.

2017 August 8

To Be Or Not To Be

Thomas Metzinger

A cognitive bias hinders our moral cognition. The phenomenal states of sentient beings on Earth are much more frequently characterized by suffering and frustration than these beings can see for themselves.

Analyzing the facts, an ethical superintelligence concludes that it should minimize consciously experienced frustration, pain, and suffering. It knows that no entity can suffer from its own nonexistence and that naturally evolved biological creatures are unable to realize this fact because of their firmly anchored existence bias. It decides to act benevolently.

There are no moral facts. We have evolved desires, subjective preferences, and we experience interests. Evolution made us efficient, but the overall process is blind to our own interests. We have deep seated moral intuitions, for example that pleasure is good and pain is bad.

The benevolent superintelligence respects these moral intuitions and tries to find an optimal way of making them consistent. But this does not imply direct access to a mysterious realm of higher moral truths. It just means that the system, given all available data, tries to find out what is in our own best interest.

Maybe meditation or future neurotechnology could help us to make our lives worth living. Conceivably, it could help us in giving our lives a positive overall balance, or even liberate us from the burden of our biological past. But even if all the billions of human beings on this planet were turned into vegan Buddhas, the problem of wild animal suffering would remain.

A fully rational superintelligence would never have a problem with ending its own existence. But most human beings could never accept any such insight, no matter how good the arguments of their artificial moral reasoner were. Homo sapiens would declare war against a compassionate anti-natalist superintelligence.

Human life is one big uphill battle. Yet we will do almost anything to prolong our own existence, even if it violates rationality constraints. This is a biological imperative that has been burned into our nervous systems over millennia — the Buddha called it the craving for existence.

AR Thomas seemed cheerier than this at ASSC XIII.

Quantum Gravity

Natalie Wolchover

Joe Polchinski won the 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.

Polchinski, 63, has worked at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for 25 years. He authored the seminal 1998 textbook String Theory.

Polchinski: "The first thing to know is that the two great theories of physics (quantum mechanics and general relativity) work very well in most circumstances, but in extremes like the beginning of the Big Bang we do not know how to fit them together. Black holes are a great testing ground for this. The firewall paradox seems to say that one of the two theories must be modified, and that the result is that the black hole interior is replaced by a wall of quantum bits."

AR If our Hubble bubble is bounded by a wall of qubits (recall Maldacena, blog 2017-06-25) then it seems black holes must have firewalls.

2017 August 7


Clare Foges

The migrant crisis of the past few years has been a lesson in the dangers of allowing heart to overrule head. From the German welcome policy to the NGO boats searching the Mediterranean for migrants to rescue, humanitarian compassion has escalated the crisis.

The line between refugees and economic migrants is increasingly blurred. The top three home nations of those arriving in Italy in the first quarter of this year were Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Guinea. UN figures suggest that 7 in 10 who have come to Libya are escaping poverty.

Most will sympathise with those who yearn to escape poverty. But behind every one who makes it to Italy are many more who are emboldened to set out on the same journey. The most sensible strategy is to improve life in the poorest countries and so weaken the desire to migrate.

Migrants know that once rescued in the Mediterranean, passage to mainland Europe is assured. The UN defines an asylum-seeker as anyone with a well-founded fear of persecution in their own country. Smartphones let migrants learn their rights under international law.

AR Development aid can be a good investment — better than buying patrol warships that no sane government would allow to sink migrant boats on sight.

2017 August 6

Machines of Loving Grace

Bryan Appleyard

Artificial intelligence and robotics research is transforming our world. New machines will wipe out millions of jobs. The Internet of Things is a whole new way for bad things to happen.

AI systems have already infiltrated the military, financial transactions, and the internet. We are now surrounded by machines that in many ways are more competent than we are. A high-end car runs with well over 100 million lines of computer code — with more to come in self-driving cars.

Regardless of moral and ethical concerns, Beijing proposes to lock everybody in China into a social credit system by 2020. Algorithms will log and assess all web user actions to calculate credit scores. Score high and prosper, score low and despair.

Plans for robot nurses, carers, and teachers often raise safety issues as acute as for cars. Tell an AI carer always to do what is best for the patient and it may well decide to kill them. Program them not to kill people and they may simply decide we are wrong.

Silicon Valley believers say we will engineer the Singularity. A super-intelligent machine will make itself ever more intelligent and solve all our problems. If we avoid catastrophe we can enter a kind of paradise watched over by machines of loving grace.

2017 August 5

Memo to Mike Pence

Foreign Policy

You occupy an unusual position in the American constitution. You are the only member of the executive branch whom Donald Trump cannot fire. You do not serve at the pleasure of the president.

1 Start acting like a potential successor. It will let you emerge as a leader not hopelessly tainted by your origin story. Put meaningful distance between yourself and Trump. Act with the deliberation and integrity and dignity of a president.

2 Do not allow an administration unrivaled in its mendacity to make a liar out of you. Refuse to make any factual representations to the American people that you have not independently verified and are not prepared to stand behind.

3 Reaffirm, wherever possible, your commitment to and faith in all of our three branches of government.

4 Study the example of Gerald Ford, who became president with the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974.

Memo to Theresa May

Leo Varadkar

In October I will sit around the European Council table with 26 other prime ministers and we will decide together whether sufficient progress has been made to allow the Brexit negotiations to proceed. I do not underestimate the challenge.

1 If the United Kingdom does not want to stay in the customs union, perhaps there can be an EU-UK customs union.

2 If the UK does not want to stay in the single market perhaps it could enter into a deep free trade agreement with the EU and rejoin EFTA, of which it was a member prior to accession.

3 And if this cannot be agreed now, then perhaps we can have a transition period during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union while these things are worked out.

These are the practical solutions I am proposing.

The Next Big Thing

Tim Bradshaw

Apple augmented reality will launch next month with the latest version of iOS for iPhones and iPads. ARKit technology turns a combination of computer vision, tracking sensors, and mapping software into something that can be incorporated into any app.

Apple could become the first American business to be valued above $1 trillion. But it is 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone. The company faces speculation about where to go next.

Apple has begun to place bets on a wide range of markets. A pair of AR glasses might move cameras, sensors, and screens from the smartphone to the face. Apple is experimenting with prototypes.

Apple designers and engineers are content to wait for the right moment to launch a new product. They can move quickly when the moment arrives. App developers say AR could become the next big computing platform after smartphones.

AR is next — see GOD chapter 0001.

2017 August 4

Brexit Referendum 2

Vernon Bogdanor

Britain is negotiating for a free trade agreement in a hard Brexit. A trade agreement would probably have to be ratified unanimously by the European Council, by a majority in the European Parliament, and by 27 national and 11 regional parliaments.

The June election result reopens the issue of Europe for four reasons:

1 There is probably no Commons majority for a hard Brexit. There is probably a stronger representation of Remain MPs in parliament today than before the election.

2 Labour gains raise the question of whether the decision in the 2016 referendum is final. A study found the Labour soft Brexit policy lay behind its big gain in votes. The election was the revenge of the Remainers.

3 The election intensifies internal divisions in both major parties. If the deal is too hard, Conservative Remainers may join with their opposition counterparts to defeat it, too soft and Tory hardliners could reject it. There may be no majority for any form of Brexit on offer.

4 The House of Lords may reject hard Brexit, saying a minority government has no mandate for it.

With a deadlocked parliament, the possibility of a bad deal, and both parties deeply divided on Europe, the best way out may be a second referendum. Brexit raises existential issues for the future of the UK. The final deal needs the consent not only of parliament, but of a sovereign people.

AR The people wanted Brexit: You can't always get what you want — Mick Jagger.

Brexit Barriers

Andrew Adonis

Theresa May set out the hard Brexit policy of leaving the customs union and the single market in January. Before then, the working Whitehall assumption had been the UK would seek to stay in both, like Norway or Switzerland.

Leaving the customs union and the single market requires the UK by March 2019 to negotiate new trade treaties with the EU27 and with the 75 other nations with which the EU has trade agreements. These 102 countries account for more than 60% of UK exports of goods and services.

British trade is already global — helped, not hindered, by being part of the EU customs union. There are a few large markets with which the EU does not have trade agreements. The new Department for International Trade (DIT) is building up its negotiating capacity from scratch.

AR No deals mean barriers at the borders — FUK.


Yuval Noah Harari

Some time before the ninth century CE, a script was invented to store and process mathematical data with unprecedented efficiency. This partial script, composed of numerals from 0 to 9, was invented by Hindus and promoted by Arabs. The basis for modern mathematics came into being.

This system of writing has become the world's dominant language. Almost all states, companies, organizations, and institutions use mathematical script to record and process data. A person who wishes to influence their big decisions must learn to speak in numbers.

Mathematics has now given us a script consisting of only 0 and 1. Our computers have trouble understanding our minds, so we are learning to talk, feel, and dream in the language of computers. A new kind of intelligence is emerging, based solely on bits.

AR When I find myself in times of trouble, mathematics comes to me.

2017 August 3

War Against North Korea

The Times

US Republican Lindsey Graham quoted Donald Trump as saying "there will be a war with North Korea if they continue to try to hit America" with an ICBM: "He has told me that. I believe him .. If there's going to be a war .. it will be over there. If thousands die, they're going to die over there."

Brexit Reveals UK Flaws

Simon Kuper

Brexit is being mismanaged. More than a year after the referendum, the cabinet still cannot agree on what kind of Brexit it wants, or when. HMS UK is steaming toward yet another disaster.

Brexit reveals three enduring flaws in UK institutions:

1 Running a country on rhetoric. Brexit was made about 30 years ago at the Oxford Union — Oxford university's version of a children's parliament, which organises witty debates, and where future Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were presidents. In Britain, humour is used to cut off conversations before they can get emotional, boring, or technical. Tasking Brexiteers with managing Brexit was like asking the winners of a debating contest to engineer a spaceship.

2 Ruling class insularity. The present cabinet of mostly former public schoolboys don't want Brussels running Britain. That's their caste's prerogative. Because the referendum skated over boring policy stuff, cabinet ministers are discovering only now the UK will pay the EU a large divorce bill.

3 Delusions of grandeur. Britain became a great power because it pioneered the fossil-fuel economy and because being an island was excellent protection when states still invaded each other. Neither advantage exists any more. Britain today is like a cute little bonobo ape that thinks it's a gorilla. The updated strategy is America First, Britain Second — praying that Donald Trump will reward fealty with a sweetheart trade deal.

Britain ignores its genuine strengths. Almost all its clever people are mere spectators at the Brexit slapstick. Westminster insularity had previously enabled the financial crisis. The ruling rhetoricians treated the City as a magic money tree, until in 2007 the tree fell down and hit the country.

AR Some nice rhetoric there.

Mit Abgas in den Abgrund

Michail Hengstenberg

Die Autohersteller sind angeschlagen, ihre Diesel-Verkäufe sinken dramatisch. Mit dem Gipfel sollte hektisch Vertrauen zurückgewonnen werden, doch das Gegenteil ist der Fall. So ist die Branche dem Untergang geweiht.

AR Uups — ich fahre ein BMW Diesel-Auto.


2017 August 2

North Korea

The New York Times

The Trump administration's approach to the North Korean nuclear threat is failing. It was all about putting the responsibility on China to force the North to abandon its program.

China has held back. The Chinese fear the NK regime could collapse, sending millions of refugees fleeing across the border and effectively handing power over the peninsula to US ally South Korea.

The Trump administration has not given up on China. But sanctions alone are not the answer. Some experts suggest an NK nuclear and missile freeze in return for limits on US-SK military exercises.

The administration awaits a "tangible signal" that NK will abandon its nuclear program before talks begin. This is not realistic. Talks should begin without preconditions.

AR It could be worth a trillion dollars to resolve this peacefully.


European Commission

Terrorism is seen for the first time as the most important issue facing the EU.
Immigration comes second.

Trust in the EU and in national parliaments and governments has increased.
Europeans trust the EU more than national parliaments and governments.

4 in 10 Europeans have a positive image of the EU
2 in 10 have a negative image of the EU.
More than 4 in 10 Europeans consider that their voice counts in the EU.
More than half of Europeans disagree that their voice counts in the EU.
Well over half of Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU.

Absolute majorities of Europeans support EU priorities and common policies.
More than 8 in 10 respondents are in favor of free movement of EU citizens.
More than two-thirds support a common European policy on migration.
6 in 10 are for European economic and monetary union and a single currency.
In the EZ nearly three-quarters support the euro.

Absolute majorities of Europeans feel attached to the EU and to Europe.
More than two-thirds of Europeans feel they are citizens of the EU.

AR The UK is down with Greece and Hungary in the national breakdowns.

Quantum Gravimeter

Jennifer Ouellette

A UK collaboration has built a quantum gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make precise measurements of gravitational field strength. It could be used to survey for oil or minerals, and it may be the start of a new market for quantum devices.

The gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength of ambient gravitational fields. It holds clouds of rubidium atoms in superposition in a vacuum chamber cooled to 80 microkelvin. To make a measurement, it drops them and zaps them in free fall with three laser pulses. These produce an interference pattern encoding the position and paths of the clouds.

Two atom clouds falling at different speeds would indicate a change in the density of the ground below, for example due to the presence of oil or minerals. Quantum effects are sensitive, so the device must be carefully shielded and cooled.

Glasgow photonics company M Squared founder and CEO Graeme Malcolm: "I think we're just at the early stage of commercial adoption of quantum technologies."

AR My essay on quantum theory is on hold as I study QFT.

2017 August 1

Eurasia This Century


The People's Republic of China and the European Union are the leading political agents on Earth for global organization. China's road and belt strategy and the EU vision of a federalized Europe centered on Germany are the most promising steps in the direction of developing an integrated social and business model across the supercontinent, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

America can be part of this vision only after the US experiment with populist democracy has run its course and the US global hegemony has been replaced by a more globalist strategic order. A joint push from China and Europe can nudge Russia into reforms that help it support wider order. A Eurasian order can subsume Islam and other traditions in a social democratic polity.

Science is the enabler for the new vision. A scientific view of the universe and the emergence of life is a backdrop to a view of human duty as to ensure that the human footprint on Earth properly reflects the glory we wish to associate with our memory as deep time swallows up the human legacy. Due respect for science and measured cultivation of technology express basic values.

The globalist vision will center on planetary management for human flourishing in a sustainable environment. Big business corporations will share the vision as a precondition for long term success as providers of specialist services on a global scale. The legal and regulatory environment will claim global scope and seek to integrate outlier regimes as harmoniously as possible.

Globorg Is Great!

Borders of Infinity


Keita Yokoyama and Ludovic Patey have proved a major statement about the finite-infinite divide. The boundary separates two kinds of mathematical statements: finitistic ones, which can be proved without invoking infinity, and infinitistic ones, which presume that infinite objects exist.

Mapping and understanding this division is at the heart of mathematical logic. It leads directly to questions of mathematical objectivity, the meaning of infinity, and the relationship between mathematics and physical reality.

The new proof settles a question about Ramsey's Theorem for pairs — RT22 is finitistically reducible. The argument in RT22 can be used to prove new facts in finitistic mathematics.

RT22 — Imagine an infinite set of objects, such as the set of all natural numbers. Now pair each object in the set one by one with all other objects. Color each pair of objects either red or blue according to some rule. When you are done, RT22 states that at least one of the (all red or all blue) subsets will be infinite (color can be any property).

We are now free to use this result to prove statements in finitistic mathematics. All the finitistic consequences of RT22 are guaranteed to be provable in a finitistic way.

Frank Ramsey used infinitistic methods to partition infinite sets at will. David Hilbert challenged us to prove that set theory and all of infinitistic mathematics is finitistically reducible, and therefore trustworthy. Then Kurt Gödel proved that no system of logical axioms powerful enough to include elementary arithmetic can ever prove its own consistency, so to prove that a system of logic is consistent, you need another axiom from outside the system — end of Hilbert's program.

Patey and Yokoyama showed that RT22 is equal in logical strength to primitive recursive arithmetic, and therefore finitistically reducible. They modeled the infinite (red or blue) set of pairs in RT22 using a finite set whose elements are nonstandard models of the natural numbers. They then translated the question of the strength of RT22 into the size of the finite set in their model.

Numerous finitistic statements about natural numbers are now known to be expressible in primitive recursive arithmetic. They are thus certain to be logically consistent.

PLA soldiers
China Daily

"Time for talk is over"

US ambassador to the UN
Nikki Haley says China
"must decide if it is finally
willing to take this vital step"
of challenging Pyongyang.

Brexit — Cars

More than half the parts in an
average car built in the UK last
year were imported. A triumph
of modern supply chain logistics
will be a liability after Brexit.
WTO rules would cut British
exports and raise the cost
of cars in the UK.

Jack Sheldon
1917 — Passchendaele

Classic Rock Review
1967 — Beatles sang
"All you need is love"

Khan We Do It?

London mayor Sadiq Khan
wants the UK to stay in the EU
and proposes a pledge:

"For it to have credibility
with the British public, there
would have to be a Labour
manifesto offer ..

"You'd have to spell out in
black and white what we'd
do if we won the general
election. What could trump
the referendum result is us
having a manifesto offer
saying we would not leave
the EU or we would have
a second referendum."

A Yes We Khan!

John Jefferys
John Jefferys

Brain Diaries
Modern Neuroscience in Action
Natural History Museum, Oxford
2017-03-10 — 2018-01-01

AR, 2008
Me in 2008

Top — Not!

Jeff Bezos was the richest man
in the world for a few hours.
He was worth about $90 billion thanks to a rise in the valuation
of the Amazon group to around
$500 billion. Then came news
of a drop in Q2 profits.

WW2 Tanks
Matilda II tank

Editions Aedis


Hello, UK, it's the USA here ..
We understand that you chose
to split up with the EU ..
To be honest, some think
you are pandering to a part
of you that blames anybody
but themselves when
things go wrong.
So, I am asking you to do
some soul searching and
rethink this whole thing.
Just to be clear, we'll
still be friends ..
But if you leave for the
reasons you have stated,
you will not be respected
in the global community
for many years
to come.

Royal Navy 1940
Royal Navy, 1940
1939: RN had 19 battleships,
80 cruisers, ..
1945: RN had 16 battleships,
52 carriers, 62 cruisers,
257 destroyers, ..

Protesters in Lodz on Sunday

North Sea Empire

Scandinavian invaders first
raided England in 981 CE. In
1009 an army took Canterbury
and pillaged the south coast.
In 1010 it laid waste to
many English shires.

Swen Forkbeard landed in 1013
and the English capitulated.
His son Cnut the Great ruled
from 1013 to 1035 as king of
Denmark, England and Norway
 — the North Sea Empire.

Warner Bros
The Third Reich staged WW2
as the ultimate work of art

Thomas, Nolan
Emma Thomas and
Christopher Nolan in
Dunkirk last Sunday

A Celebration of
Science and Reason

Lawrence Krauss
Sam Harris
Matt Dillahunty

New York City

Donald Trump:
My First Six Months


An Inconvenient Sequel:
Truth to Power


AL GORE 2020


William und Kate

Am zweiten Tag ihrer
Deutschland-Reise waren
Prinz William und seine Frau
Herzogin Kate in Heidelberg.
Sie besuchten das Deutsche
Gegen Abend ging sie
zurück nach Berlin.

AR Es war schön,
Heidelberg wieder
im Fernseher
zu sehen


2017 July 31

China's Centenary Goals

China Daily

Speaking at a reception to mark the 90th anniversary of People's Liberation Army in London, Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming said China aims to build its armed forces to provide a strong safeguard as it strives to realize the dream of national renewal.

The Chinese Communist Party was founded in 2021 and the People's Republic of China established in 2049. The centenary goals are that by 2021, China will be economically secure and by 2049, it will be a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious, and modern socialist country.

China aims to ensure its defense force meets the need of protecting its security and development interests. In recent decades, China's military expenditure accounted for 1.32% of GDP.

China pursues a concept focused on common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security. China will make great efforts to advance international cooperation on military and security, and will play an active and leading role in international peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

China is the largest contributor of peacekeepers among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. China is also the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget.

FUK No Tax Haven — Hammond

The Times

In Le Monde, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said: "I often hear it said that the UK is considering participating in unfair competition in regulation and tax. That is neither our plan nor our vision for the future. The amount of tax we raise as a percentage of our GDP puts us right in the middle of the pack. We don't want that to change, even after we've left the EU. I would expect us to remain a country with a social, economic and cultural model that is recognisably European."

Conservatives do not have parliamentary support for changing the British economic model by slashing taxes and regulation.

Dunkirk Spirit

Zoe Williams

The Brexit narrative uses memories of WW2 movies in which plucky Brits won the day and sundry foreigners were put in their place.

Dunkirk does not identify a human enemy. The soldiers show a range of human qualities, bravery and cowardice, strength and weakness, uncertainty and confidence, pluck and despair — no innate British superiority, just a lot of human beings scrambling their way through visceral horror.

The moving spirit of the event depicted has nothing to do with battle and everything to do with generosity, with unarmed sailors saving strangers who needed to be saved. All you can see in hundreds of small boats is humility, gentleness, and sympathy. There can be no fit memorial to those who gave their lives but near infinite generosity between those who survived.

As for refugees, in the evacuation of the French from the beaches, Brits had no thought of breaching a yearly migration target. A moviegoer may consider the horrors that would otherwise have ensued and conclude that maybe offering sanctuary in the service of humanity is a good thing.

Thanks to the EU, Europeans have been at peace with each other for 70 years. The right response to Brexit bellicosity is Dunkirk spirit.

2017 July 30


US Department of State

The United States strongly condemns North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

As the principal economic enablers of North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability.

The United States will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Trump Tweets
12.29—12.35 am, July 30

I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet .. they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!


Niall Ferguson

"You have a White House in meltdown because the president is a pyromaniac .. in a rational world, Donald Trump would not be the president of the United States. We're well past the rational world."
Charlie Sykes

Two WW2 acronyms: snafu (situation normal, all fucked up) and fubar (fucked up beyond all recognition).

Last November, American voters faced a choice between a candidate who personified the political status quo under an arrogant and detached liberal elite and a candidate who promised the disruption of that status quo — snafu or fubar.

The time has arrived to break the bad news to those who voted for Trump. You wanted change. You got it. But the result is a political system that I can certify as fucked up beyond all recognition. This is not politics — this is fubatics.

AR Peaceniks of the world beware.

Brexit — Single Market Wins

The Observer

Two of Germany's biggest industry groups say their main concern during the Brexit process is protecting the single market for the EU27, even if this harms UK trade.

BDI president Dieter Kempf: "Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority for the European Union. Europe must maintain the integrity of the single market and its four freedoms: goods, capital, services, and labour. It is the responsibility of the British government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel. Over the coming months, it will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular."

BDA president Ingo Kramer: "The single market is one of the major assets of the EU. Access to the single market requires the acceptance of all four single market freedoms. The UK will remain a very important partner for us, but we need a fair deal for both sides respecting this principle. The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU member states has highest priority."

AR A clear and correct decision

2017 July 29


Anil Ananthaswamy

In the beginning, quantum electrodynamics involved hard calculations. Richard Feynman found an easier way to do them. But quantum chromodynamics involved so many of them that even Feynman diagrams got too much.

Ruth Britto, Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng, and Edward Witten (BCFW) calculated some difficult scattering amplitudes and derived a simple equation to do the same thing.

Their method was inspired by twistor theory, developed by Roger Penrose (blog 2017-02-14). Twistors are light rays (null geodesics in relativistic spacetime). The terms used in the BCFW method map to tetrahedral volumes in twistor space, which sum up to the volume of a polyhedron.

Nima Arkani-Hamed and his team say BCFW results correspond to the volume of an amplituhedron (something like a multidimensional polyhedron). An amplituhedron encodes scattering amplitude calculations, and its dimensions and facets encode the details of the interaction.

The amplituhedron does not embody unitarity and locality, which are core principles for Feynman diagrams. But amplituhedra give scattering amplitudes that obey locality and unitarity, so locality becomes an emergent feature of spacetime. Quantum mechanics says the energy fluctuations in tiny intervals of time get ever bigger, big enough to warp spacetime and form black holes, so we might lose locality in quantum gravity.

Arkani-Hamed: "If we are going to lose something as dramatic as the idea of spacetime, it's very unlikely that it leaves any of physics unaffected. It must show up everywhere. It must show up even in situations where we think we understand things perfectly well."

The amplituhedron works for a toy model with supersymmetry. The standard model is not supersymmetric, but for simple particle interactions the amplituhedron results agree with standard ones. The new method holds for the class of theories the standard model arose from.

Arkani-Hamed: "There is no way in this geometry to decouple the piece which is spacetime from the piece which is quantum mechanics. It's all one and the same aspect of the underlying positive geometry."


Oxford Today

Oxford neuroscientist John Jefferys studies consciousness. He says this is a large question to do with what makes humans distinctive. He believes consciousness depends on the brain.

Consciousness has different levels. In some phases of sleep your brain behaves as if it is awake. When awake we experience different levels of wakefulness. Other animals are conscious, but humans are unique in storing and building on the knowledge of previous generations.

Jefferys studies neural correlates of consciousness. There are about 86 billion neurons in the human cerebral cortex. Trillions of axons connect them at synapses. Patterns of connections are as important as the numbers.


Natalie Wolchover

Jeremy England sees life as the outcome of thermodynamics. He says groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more energy, dissipating it and raising entropy. He says this adaptation fosters the growth of complex structures.

England has tested his idea in computer simulations. A simulated soup of chemicals evolves from random initial settings toward a structured steady state. For some settings, the reaction network evolves to fixed points far from equilibrium, where it cycles vigorously through reactions to harvest as much energy possible from the environment.

The simulations show this behavior can arise quite quickly. Groups of atoms that unlock and burn chemical energy must be arranged in unusual forms. When driven by external energy sources, they tend to tap into the energy sources by rearranging so as to better absorb and dissipate the energy.

England sees the confluence of form and function in life as the ultimate outcome of dissipation-driven adaptation and self-replication. In his simulations, external energy sources forced certain chemical reactions in the reaction network. As the reactions progressed and the concentrations evolved, the amount of forcing would change abruptly.

In such an environment, the networks became tuned to the landscape. In randomized runs, rare states of vigorous chemical activity and extreme forcing occurred four times more often than expected. These systems showed the functional form of life.

2017 July 28

Trump — Unfit!

Jennifer Rubin

President Trump is using the military as a pawn in a political stunt. Right-wingers threatened to block funding for his useless wall unless he eliminated funding for gender reassignment surgery from the defense budget. Trump responded with a ban on transgender people in the military.

Trump may have been taken by surprise when conservative Republicans condemned the move. His selfish motivation was obvious. In hot water with the right wing and seeing the special prosecutor hot on his trail, he decided to appeal to the worst instincts and prejudices of his base.

Trump is incapable of thinking beyond his self-interest. He would disrupt our military, create havoc among active service personnel and their families, and lie about it all just to distract from his political woes. Trump has no clue as to the awesome responsibilities of the presidency.

Mooch — Fire!

Ryan Lizza

Trump's new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci: "They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves .. I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock. I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm here to serve the country. .. OK, the Mooch showed up a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, OK? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the FBI and the fucking Department of Justice."

Brexit — Whoops!

Philip Stephens

Brexit may break the Conservatives. The clock is ticking. Falling off a cliff in March 2019 is not a sensible strategy for the UK or its government.

Germany says a transition would be difficult. Britain would be obliged to continue to observe all the rules of the single market and customs union, including free movement of workers and the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and pay all its financial dues, while giving up its seat at the Brussels table. Bespoke arrangements are impractical within the Article 50 timescale.

No one is offering something for nothing. The big trade deal promised by Donald Trump would see British farmers put out of business by cheap imports and the NHS opened up to US business. The Indians and Australians want more immigrant visas.

The Treasury says we need EU access until deals elsewhere are done. A limbo between the EU and Brexit would be dire. Britain would be much better off as an EU member.

Blitzsieg — Nicht!

Johann Althaus

In Mai 1940 brach die deutsche Wehrmacht durch zu Calais. Am 22. Mai 1940 steckte gut die Hälfte von mehr als eine Million französische, britische und belgische Soldaten in einem Kessel fest.

Aus London kam die Weisung, die Wehrmacht mit voller Kraft anzugreifen. BEF-Kommandeur Lord Gort traf eine andere Entscheidung: Er würde sofort und mit aller Kraft die Evakuierung betreiben. Rund 400.000 Mann mussten in die unmittelbare Umgebung der Hafenstadt Dünkirchen gelangen.

Die vordersten deutschen Panzer waren nur noch 19 Kilometer vor Dünkirchen. Doch zwei Tage lang zögerte Hitler, seinen Truppen den Angriff auf den Kessel freizugeben. Am 24. Mai erließ er einen ausdrücklichen Haltebefehl. Seit damals rätseln alle warum.

1 Der Führer könnte um seine Panzer gefürchtet haben. Denn am 21. Mai hatten britische schwere Panzer vom Typ Matilda II den meist leichten Kampfwagen der Wehrmacht zum ersten Mal eine Schlappe beigebracht.

2 Der Haltebefehl wäre ein Angebot an die Regierung in London: Nach einem Sieg über Frankreich wäre er zum Friedensschluss bereit.

3 Der Gröfaz wollte seiner höchsten Generalität klar machen, auf wen es letztlich ankam.

Nach 49 Stunden wurde der Haltebefehl wieder aufgehoben, aber diese Zeit hatten die Briten genutzt, um eine Evakuierung zu organisieren. Operation Dynamo begann am 26. Mai 1940.

Bis 3. Juni 1940 transportierten britische Schiffe aus dem Hafen von Dünkirchen 239.446 Mann ab. Kleinere Boote bargen weitere 98.780 Soldaten von den Stränden

2017 July 27

Brexit — Done Deal

Tony Barber

For many French businesses and people, Brexit is both desirable and unstoppable. Time for the EU to move on. Such impatience with the UK is not limited to France.

Too few Brits listen to the views of those across the Channel who know European politics and how the EU works. Nothing about Brexit can be settled except in agreement with the EU27 national governments and the European Parliament. Brits harbor illusions and make unrealistic demands.

Theresa May and her cabinet ministers want a phased exit from the EU to avoid a cliff-edge departure that might damage business. But temporary UK acceptance of EU rules on free movement will not be enough to strike a transition deal. EU negotiators will ask the UK to continue to make budget payments, remain in the EU judicial system, and accept its present membership obligations, yet have no vote on anything.

Too Late

UK home secretary Amber Rudd will commission a detailed analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain, to report back in September 2018.

Labour MP Heidi Alexander: "It beggars belief that the government have taken a year to get round to asking for expert evidence on the role played by EU nationals in our country .. The timing of this announcement shows the total lack of preparation and understanding that has typified this government's attitude to Brexit so far."

AR Heidi hat leider recht.

Tech Limits

Bob O'Donnell

Tech leaders aim to break through limits and do things that were impossible before. But a pause can be wise. Some advances raise deep ethical questions.

Limiting expectations for a new technology is important. When huge advances are daily occurrences, it is all too easy to think there are no limits to what we can do. People will accept almost any predictions about the future of new technologies. This is the fake news of tech.

Unbounded dreams for a tech-driven nirvana can clash with the realities of the modern world, particularly in regard to timeframes. Some say technologies like AI or autonomous driving are going to solve enormous societal issues in a matter of a few years. Others see the tech industry as stagnating in search of the next big thing. Both camps are wrong.

Autonomous driving can benefit some people in some environments, but it will not be a great fit for everyone, everywhere. We are still a long way from having a physical, legal, economic, and political environment for autonomous cars to have a big impact on the transportation needs of most consumers. But the technologies can have a dramatic impact on public transportation systems or shipping fleets over the next few years.

Google Glass is no longer trying to be the next generation computing device and industry disruptor but will focus on work-based applications. It will do what it is best designed to do. Accepting that a technology cannot do some things creates a more realistic scenario for it to succeed.

Thinking a new technology concept can be extended without limits will lead to disappointment. A limited scope is not a bug but a feature.

AR Globorg on hold, ditto the Singularity.

2017 July 26

Clean Up Our Air!

The Times

The UK government will ban sales of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040. Hybrid cars will also be banned. At present under 1% of new cars sold in Britain run solely on electric power.

The ban is part of a government plan to improve air quality. A £3 billion program includes £255 million to help local authorities to deal with toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from diesel vehicles. Environment secretary Michael Gove will require dozens of councils with roads breaching legal limits for NO2 to publish plans to cut emissions by the end of 2018.

Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Air pollution cost an estimated £2.7 billion in lost productivity in 2012 and 40,000 premature deaths every year.

Clean Air Zones

The Guardian

The UK ban on the sale of all petrol and diesel cars from 2040 is partly driven by EU rules.

The European Commission in February threatened the UK with penalties for failing to take action on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. UK environment secretary Michael Gove will asks local authorities to improve air quality in areas where emissions have breached EU thresholds by retrofitting buses and taking steps to improve traffic flow.

The strategy calls for setting up 27 clean air zones (CAZs) that polluting vehicles, especially diesels, would be charged to enter. Greenpeace says proper clean air zones are vital. The London mayor may be asked to fund a scheme to scrap diesels, the worst emitters of poisonous NOx.

French president Emmanuel Macron has already made the same 2040 pledge.

AR This is ambitious. A lot of extra electricity generating capacity will be needed to recharge millions of electric cars.

Dunkirk Brexit

Rafael Behr

Humiliation corrodes the soul of nations. Dunkirk was a disorderly retreat following a defeat. Yet Dunkirk spirit became an emblem of national character, a metaphor for plucky survival against insuperable odds.

Victory over fascism, after a period of solitary defiance on an island fortress, has infused British identity with vast reserves of moral authority. As the rest of the world has moved on, Brits still congratulate themselves.

Britain joined the EEC in 1973. All the tribes of Europe narrate the past in the majestic plural, yet none can match British shame at loss of identity through EU membership. Brexit is self-harm, born of an urge to expiate the sin of having joined the enterprise in the first place.

Brexit will complete the national devaluation prefigured in the post-referendum slide of sterling. Britain will cut a smaller figure on the world stage. Backing out now will require a plea for mercy that looks like a grovel.

Dunkirk was a preamble to hard times followed by magnificent redemption. It shows retreat can be the best option. When a plan goes wrong and disaster is in sight, it is time to swallow pride and turn around.

Brains in Vats

Philip Ball

A brain is governed by the laws of physics. Those laws can be simulated on a computer. According to the transhumanists, we will soon be able to live on inside computer hardware. The brain in a vat becomes the brain on a chip.

Such heady visions ignore the fact that the brain is an organ of the body. Experts say embodiment is central to experience and brain function. At the immediate physiological level, the brain engages in discourse with its sensory experience via hormones in the bloodstream.

How do you know you're not just a brain in a vat being presented with a simulated world? How, then, can you know that all your beliefs about the world are not false?

Hilary Putnam argued in 1981 that the notion is contradictory. Words and concepts used by a brain in a vat cannot be meaningfully applied to real objects outside of its experience, because the ability to interact causally with the things that words name is how such words acquire meaning.

Anthony Brueckner: "If I am a Brain in a Vat, then I am not a Brain in a Vat."

AR The world is my vat.

2017 July 25

Brexit Is Our Dunkirk

Will Hutton

Dunkirk is an enduring British myth. The extraordinary evacuation of the stranded, defeated British army in May and June 1940 staved off what would otherwise have been an inevitably successful German invasion, runs the myth. Defeat became the platform for eventual victory.

The Dunkirk spirit is emblematic of British bulldog virtues. Brexiteers appeal to it today. Any disaster, even one as epic as Brexit, can be turned around if we all pull together. Dunkirk may have been a disaster, but it was also a stunning achievement.

In 1940, British naval and air strength was formidable. The British Empire manufactured more planes and ships than Germany throughout the war. Britain also boasted great scientific and technological strength. Today, the UK current account deficit exceeds 5% of GDP, real wages and productivity are stagnant, and hope is hard to find.

Brexit is a new Dunkirk. But no flotilla of small boats and no underlying economic strength will come to the rescue. It's just defeat.

EZ Risk

Gene Frieda

Prospects for deepening EZ monetary union remain poor. EZ periphery states need to grow fast to reduce debt but growth must stay weak if competitiveness is to rise via internal devaluation. Until EZ surplus states deliver more domestic demand, this contradiction will persist.

EZ periphery vulnerability stems from several adverse dynamics:

1 Given high debt levels, euro fungibility across borders is still prone to breakdown. During periods of weak growth, sovereign debt sustainability is questioned. Periphery states have little recourse to countercyclical fiscal stimulus.

2 EZ periphery states have to undergo painful internal devaluations to regain competitiveness due to the fixed ERM. With average EZ inflation very low, internal devaluation is politically and financially destabilising.

3 Low potential growth rates and negligible inflation prevent debt levels from falling much during cyclical upswings. Debt sustainability remains elusive.

Political will is lacking. The ECB program to buy sovereign debt requires states in need of financing to cede sovereignty to Brussels in return for funding. The high bar for political intervention leaves the EZ unsafe.

German Philosophy

Stuart Jeffries

Richard David Precht is a rock star of German philosophy. He has sold more than 1 million copies worldwide of his most popular book — Who Am I? And If So, How Many? — in 32 languages. His TV show, called simply Precht, boasts a viewership of nearly 1 million.

German philosophy is flourishing. Philosophie Magazin takes its questions to the marketplace, letting the public help feel them out, and now has a circulation of 100,000. German philosophers have made the Faustian pact of exchanging profundity for popularity.

The grand German tradition of philosophers such as Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger has been a source of national pride. German philosophy and German national identity have been yoked together ever since Hegel. No other philosophers have burdened their homelands with such a destiny.

Theodor Adorno said the German language had a particular affinity for philosophy. If you wanted to do philosophy properly, you had to do it in German. Though Adorno spent years at Oxford and more than a decade in the United States, he treated Anglo-American philosophy with contempt.

Jürgen Habermas read Anglo-American philosophers. His 1981 The Theory of Communicative Action envisioned an unlimited communication community linked through discourse and argument. His work bridged Adorno's pessimistic, elitist style of philosophy and the new revival of the discipline.

From 2002 to 2012, Peter Sloterdijk was co-host of Das Philosophische Quartett, a talk show on the German TV channel ZDF. He and Rüdiger Safranski would debate issues of the day with two invited guests. But after a decade, ZDF replaced the hosts with Richard David Precht and changed its name from Das Philosophische Quartett to Precht.

Markus Gabriel, whose 2015 book Why the World Does Not Exist became an international bestseller, confirms that modern German philosophy can be both profound and successful. Philosophers like Precht and Gabriel seems to have an export market. Philosophers, take heed.

2017 July 24

UK — Take Control

Michael Heseltine

Brexit will tear the UK government apart. I believe it faces an election in about two years.

To win that election the government must refocus the agenda and govern:

Reform schooling and end the postcode lottery scandal. Let employers teach skills in local enterprise partnerships. Devolve unemployment programs to employers.

Convert two-tier counties to unitary ones. The redundancies will allow council tax reductions. Let new mayoral authorities become showpieces of conservatism in action.

We have a housing crisis. Appoint a supremo with the power to drive every aspect and empower local authorities to build social housing.

Each new electoral register could be worth about a thousand votes against Brexit in every seat. The European issue is about immigration. Climate change will increase the flow.

Let our aid programs create brighter futures in immigrant homelands. Half of UK net immigration has nothing to do with Europe. Make new arrangements for seasonal workers.

Turn back boats leaving African shores. Our southern border is the Mediterranean. We should accept the principle of free movement but negotiate the details.

Act now. It will be too late for the government when the vote of confidence is called.

Poland — Protest

Financial Times

Polish president Andrzej Duda says he will veto two bills that would give politicians wide powers over the the judiciary in Poland.

The ruling Law and Justice party says the changes are needed to overhaul an inefficient system. But they have drawn fierce criticism from the EU and sparked protests across Poland.

One of the bills would force all members of the supreme court to step down, except for those kept on by the president. The second would give parliament control over the council that appoints judges.

Thousands of Poles took to the streets around the country to protest the changes.

Brexit — Exit Options

Wolfgang Munchau

1 Revocation of Brexit requires the explicit consent of the European Council before March 29, 2019. The EU27 leaders would have to agree. Some may ask for a few political conditions:

— Revoke the UK budget rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984.
— Agree on the next EU budget for when the current budget ends in 2020.
— Cooperate on EZ reform to establish a financial center within the EZ.
— Agree on immigration and other areas where the UK opted out.

2 Article 49 of the Lisbon treaty lets the UK reapply for EU membership after March 29, 2019. This procedure removes UK rebates and opt-outs and requires the UK to join the euro.

3 The UK seeks an association agreement with the EU that goes beyond a trade deal and can serve as a blueprint for relations between the EZ and other peripheral EU countries.

AR Looks like Fortress UK — the end is nigh.

2017 July 23


Philosophical prolegomenon to a viewing of the movie Dunkirk:

The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche (1872, 1993 translation by Shaun Whiteside)

From the preface to Richard Wagner: "I imagine the moment when you, my honoured friend, will receive this essay .. I am convinced that art is the supreme task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life in the sense of that man, my noble champion on that path, to whom I dedicate this book."

1 Art derives its continuous development from the duality of the Apolline and Dionysiac .. These two very different tendencies walk side by side, usually in violent opposition to one another, inciting one another to ever more powerful births, perpetuating the struggle of the opposition .. until at last they seem to beget .. tragedy.

Apollo, the deity of all plastic forces, is also the soothsaying god. Etymologically the shining one, the deity of light, he also holds sway over the beautiful illusion of the inner fantasy world.

Schopenhauer has described the tremendous dread that grips man when he suddenly loses his way amidst the cognitive forms of appearance .. If we add to this dread the blissful ecstasy which .. rises up .. from nature, we are vouchsafed a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysiac .. the artistic power .. reveals itself .. amidst the paroxysms of intoxication.

4 Apollo .. demands moderation from his followers and .. self-knowledge .. The Apolline Greeks .. were forced to feel .. their entire existence .. was based on a veiled substratum of suffering and knowledge, revealed .. by the Dionysiac.

8 Enchantment is the precondition of all dramatic art .. In the light of this insight, we must see Greek tragedy as the Dionysiac chorus, continuously discharging itself in an Apolline world of images.

16 According to Schopenhauer .. we must see music as the immediate language of the will .. we can conclude that music can give birth to the myth .. and the tragic myth above all: the myth that speaks symbolically of the Dionysiac wisdom.

25 Music and tragic myth are to an equal extent expressions of the Dionysiac capacity of a people, and they are inseparable.

AR Re music, Hans Zimmer scored a triumph of the will in Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan

The Observer

Christopher Nolan eschewed war porn for a powerful and superbly crafted disaster movie. Dunkirk brings together his finest qualities in a study of survival. The action unspools in three interlaced strands that bend our perception of time.

Nolan had turned the Batman franchise into the Dark Knight trilogy, which grossed $2.5 billion worldwide. Alongside that trio, his 2010 movie Inception took place in a mind-bending dreamworld and Interstellar (2014) in the warped time of a black hole.

Nolan was born in 1970 in London. His father was British, his mother American. He studied English literature at University College London, where he met his future wife and producer, Emma Thomas. They have been married for 17 years and have four children.

AR I absorbed the drama of Dunkirk in iSense at the Bournemouth Odeon. Dionysiac Germans hammered Apolline Brits and deafening bombs and bullets shook my body. My own bit part in the night scene in a train station is invisible in the final cut.

2017 July 22

EU West End — UK

Markus Becker

Brextremists rarely ask whether others want any part of Empire 2.0. Donald Trump may or may not give Brits a great deal full of goodies. Canada sees the US and the EU as much more important trading partners than the UK. India has made new agreements with London, but only 1.7% of UK exports go to India, only 9% to all Commonwealth countries. The EU has free trade agreements with 32 Commonwealth countries.

The EU has the best cards in the Brexit poker. It is well prepared and is holding together. The UK government still has no clear strategy on key issues. Insiders see the chance of an agreement by the end of 2018 for an orderly Brexit as near zero. A transition period will be needed to prevent a chaotic relapse to WTO rules.

Brextremist hopes will be dashed. It will be hard to avoid that humiliating end of empire feeling.

EU East End — Poland

Jan Puhl

Poland was long seen as the paragon among East End member states. But Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have turned Poland into a problem for the EU. Kaczynski thinks in nationalist terms and sees the EU as a source of cash rather than a community of solidarity. His party is dismantling the constitutional separation of powers, despite protests from Brussels, Berlin, and Polish activists.

Kaczynski envisions a generous state with a nationalist and Catholic identity. He presents himself as the defender of the common people against the consequences of economic liberalism. He sees the Poles as a heroic people forever victimized by Russia and Germany, and calls the EU an instrument of German power.

A large majority of Poles support EU membership. Diplomats fear Poles could stumble to an exit.

2017 July 21


John McCumber

Philosophy today is a backwater, but 70 years ago things were different. Marxism was winning converts worldwide. A new philosophy was needed that provided an uncompromising vindication of free markets and contested elections.

Rational choice theory holds that people make (or should make) choices rationally by ranking the alternatives presented to them with regard to transitivity and completeness. They then choose the alternative that maximizes their utility, advancing their relevant goals at minimal cost. The theory takes a strongly individualist view of human life.

Rational choice theory was elevated from an empirical theory covering certain empirical contexts into a normative theory of the proper operation of the human mind. Scientific method was already installed as coextensive with reason itself. Scientists choose from an array of alternative theories, under a preference for highest probability, in a series of rational choices.

Cold War philosophy continues to structure US society at large. It proclaims ethical neutrality. However laudable or nefarious my goals might be, I will be better able to achieve them if I have wealth and power. We therefore derive an ethical imperative to increase wealth and power.

Concern with promulgating free markets and contested elections gave the philosophy homes in departments of economics and political science, where it thrives today. The philosophy is individualist and neutral in regard to ends. Its ethic is no ethic at all — greed is good.

Another problem: Whatever I choose has at least one alternative, or there would be no choice. But if I identify myself at the outset with any of my plurality of alternatives, I cannot choose any alternative to it. Any alternative I consider in the course of making a rational decision is something I can walk away from and still be me. My fundamental identity is as a rational chooser who opts for the highest utility.

To act freely is to act from your entire moral being. Hegel: freedom is the apprehension of necessity — to understand what you have to do to be you. Freedom of choice is valuable only when situated within wider horizons of value.

AR Sam Harris should ponder this.


Rebecca Onion

What can years and years of nuclear terror teach us about how the existential fear of mass death and societal collapse might affect our ability to respond to climate change?

Stories related to climate change have failed to tap into deep-seated pre-existing terrors. Nuclear fear draws on a number of extremely potent tropes. During the Cold War, people living in fear of nuclear apocalypse often reported feeling like they were being carried away by something ancient and inexorable.

So far, climate change lacks a visceral image of the worst-case scenario. Nuclear fear also benefits from our bias toward individual stories. Because climate change is about social fate, not individual agency, it is much less dramatic to witness, much more difficult to villainize, and much easier to ignore.

The current US president seems entirely unbothered by climate change, It is tempting to think that ringing alarm bells could force citizens to insist on positive action.

AR I fear Earth could become another hell-hole like Venus.


The Guardian

UK environment secretary Michael Gove "deeply regrets" the Trump administration's approach to the Paris agreement on climate change: "The world's second-biggest generator of carbon emissions can't simply walk out of the room when the heat is on."

On Brexit: "Of course it's important we explore new trading opportunities, with the United States and other nations across the world but it must not be, and the cabinet is agreed on this, at the risk of dropping any environmental standards whatsoever."

AR Gove is smart enough to fear Venus.


Carolin Würfel

Heiraten, so meine Erkenntnis mit etwas Abstand, ist nicht nur überflüssig, sondern total bekloppt. Heiraten ändert nämlich nichts. Nichts wird besser, schöner, sicherer.

Man fühle sich vor allem sicherer, sagen vor allem Frauen. Aber das stimmt nicht. Verbundenheit ist ein Gefühl, das sich schon vor der Heirat eingestellt haben sollte, sonst käme man ja auch gar nicht erst auf die dämliche Idee mit der Hochzeit.

Heiraten bedeutet für Frauen in Deutschland: sich klein zu machen. Etwa jede dritte Ehe wird geschieden, und Unterhaltszahlungen sind auch nicht mehr das, was sie mal waren. Seit 2008 gilt das Prinzip der Eigenverantwortung.

AR Siehe "Choice" oben!


Andrea Hanna Hünniger

Das, was am perfektesten wirkt, scheitert oft umso brutaler. Ich möchte deshalb schon vorab einen Vorschlag unterbreiten: Ich möchte das Scheidenlassen gerne, wenn nicht verbieten, dann wenigstens erschweren.

Auf dem Weg zur Ehe reden wir über die Liebe und das Glück, aber nachdem die Ringe getauscht sind, sprechen wir ganz altmodisch von Selbstauflösung, Loyalität und harter Arbeit. Wir können uns zwingen, loyal und aufopfernd zu sein, aber wir können uns nicht zwingen, zu lieben. Wir haben sehr wenig Kontrolle über unsere Herzen.

Wenn eine Beziehung in der Krise ist, machen wir keine Pause, die lang genug wäre, um uns fragen zu können, was das Eheversprechen eigentlich bedeutet hat. Stattdessen erzählen wir Geschichten darüber, wie die Liebe durch Entschlossenheit und harte Arbeit erhalten bleibt, angeblich, aber wir glauben unseren Geschichten nicht wirklich.

Sich scheiden zu lassen raubt nicht nur unfassbar viel Energie, es ist auch teuer und gesundheits
-schädlich. Die Möglichkeit des nächsten Partners ist zwar noch da, aber wir können vorher wissen, dass dieser die gleichen Probleme mit sich bringt. Nämlich unsere eigenen.

Solange man nicht kotzen muss, wenn der Partner zur Tür hereinkommt, sollte man sich nicht scheiden lassen. Gerade für Frauen bedeutet Scheidung in vielen Fällen einen finanziellen Absturz und die totale gesellschaftliche Vernichtung. Ehe heißt Unterwerfung, Trennung heißt Emanzipation, sagt man. Das ist leider nicht wahr.

Die Ehe beginnt als hoffnungsvolles, großzügiges Projekt zweier Personen, die noch nicht wissen, wer sie sind und wer der andere ist. Eigentlich ist sie ein Akt des Verzichts und ihre Ethik die dem Aushalten und der Solidarität.

AR Ledig ist erträglich,
gehieratet ist besser.


Warner Bros
Brexit with Stukas
My cuts of a few reviews

Geoffrey Macnab, The independent

Winston Churchill called it a colossal military disaster. Christopher Nolan shows the blind terror and helplessness of the 400,000 British
soldiers stranded on the beach in the summer of 1940, seemingly abandoned, as Stuka dive-bombers hammered them relentlessly.
The sound editing and Hans Zimmer's pounding, disorienting electronic soundtrack induce extreme anxiety.
Nolan has gone to extraordinary lengths to portray the Dunkirk evacuation in as realistic a fashion as possible.
He intercuts between the stories of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Much of the imagery seems surreal.
We hardly see the Germans at all, only their airplanes as they swoop down for the kill.
The soldiers wait for deliverance, hoping for a miracle.

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

A superbly crafted film with a powerful story, Dunkirk is terrifying, shattering spectacle on a desolate and apocalyptic beachscape.
Nolan's best film so far also has Hans Zimmer's best musical score: the eerie, keening, groaning sound of a nightmare.
The disaster is big, the stakes are high, the anxiety is unbearable. The battle is over before the movie begins.
The soldiers wait on the beach like survivors of some horrible natural disaster.

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Dunkirk is a work of heart-hammering intensity and grandeur that demands to be seen on the best and biggest screen within reach.
The strands of the story unspool simultaneously, creating a sense that events are driving toward a pivotal historical moment.
This is a British film, with no concessions to the global market. The dialog is sparse and functional.
The actors are viscerally engaged with whatever task is facing them in any given moment.
The superb Hans Zimmer score is a constant presence.

Peter Debruge, Variety

This is the definitive cinematic version of Dunkirk. Tommy is our avatar through the ordeal.
His storyline features hardly any dialog, relying instead on us to adapt to the unrelentingly harrowing situation.
Operation Dynamo was a call to all civilian sailors, asking that they steer any ship or boat they had across the English Channel
to rescue as many of the stranded soldiers as possible. The Dunkirk beaches are a special kind of hell in the film.

Andrew Pulver, The Guardian

With Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan may at last be compared with the late, great Stanley Kubrick.
Nolan has taken on a cornerstone national myth and made a film as stylistically bold as anything Kubrick engineered.
Dunkirk is not war porn.


Notional aibot with fog node
enabled by SAP Leonardo

SAP revises expected
total 2017 revenue to
€23.3—€23.7 billion

KC Aerial Photo
Storm center 6 km south of
my sleepy head last night

Maxwell equations condensed
in modern notation to a line
relating 4-vectors A and j

Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 109E
OLt Josef 'Pips' Priller
France 1940

AR No turkey

UK F-35B
Forces Network


2017 July 20

Brexit — FUK Madness

The Guardian

UK citizens living in the EU could lose the right to live in another EU member state after Brexit. In talks this week, the EU said it will not move without a guarantee for EU citizens living in the UK to allow them to move to another EU state and return to the UK.

Uncertainty faces nearly 5 million people caught on the wrong side of the English Channel. About 1.2 million UK nationals living in the EU are affected. EU officials say the UK must make a reciprocal offer to protect the 3.5 million EU nationals living in the UK.

AR Are Brextremists mad? Grant full reciprocal rights!

IoT Edge Computing

SAP Leonardo

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of intelligent objects. The core of an IoT solution is typically a central IT system for storing, processing, and analyzing IoT data.

— IoT endpoints frequently cannot transmit all their sensor data to the core.
— Some local systems must make autonomous decisions fast and cannot wait for the cloud.

Edge processing can address these challenges. An edge processing unit is a physical device, called an IoT gateway or a fog node. It connects to devices at the edge and connects to the core directly using high-speed internet. It also provides security and lifecycle management at the edge.

IoT edge computing is playing an increasingly important role in IoT solutions. The industry trend is to deploy functionality as micro services and use container technology for lifecycle management and other benefits that come from isolation.

SAP Leonardo Edge Services represent the forefront of defining and providing relevant edge computing functionality such as persistence, stream processing, visual and predictive analytics, and other micro services for the edge. These services are designed for implementation on both existing and emerging edge platforms.

SAP Leonardo Edge Services provide:
— A distributed programming model for the edge and the core
— A lifecycle model for edge services, platform, and devices and sensors
— A deep integration with enterprise systems to bring enterprise functionality to the edge

SAP Leonardo Edge Services empower live business by connecting things with people and processes.

AR SAP promotion — but music to my ears.

2017 July 19

Trump — Global Consequences

Stephen M. Walt

Donald Trump lacks competence. The consequences in foreign policy are already apparent:

1 Big policy mistakes:
— Dropping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
— Walking away from the Paris climate accord
— Failing to appreciate that China was not going to solve the North Korea problem

2 Other countries do not pay much attention to Washington:
— Saudi Arabia is ignoring US efforts to resolve the dispute between the Gulf states and Qatar.
— Israel doesn't care what Trump thinks about the Palestinian dispute or the situation in Syria.
— South Korea has announced it will begin talks with North Korea.
— The EU and Japan just reached a large trade deal.
— TPP-like talks are resuming without the United States.
— Germany and Canada say they need to chart their own course.

Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau of Canada treated Trump with more respect than he deserves. You'd tread carefully, too, if you found yourself in the same room as a drunk rhinoceros.

Brexit — Colossal Disaster

Hans-Olaf Henkel

It would be a disaster for the UK to leave Euratom. The EU must accommodate the British, who must accept the jurisdiction of the ECJ when it comes to overseeing Euratom.

I would urge the UK government not to listen to Guy Verhofstadt or Michel Barnier. Verhofstadt wants to achieve a United States of Europe and now wants to punish the British. Barnier wants to make sure that Brexit is such a catastrophe that no country dares to take the step of leaving the EU again.

This is a terrible situation. In Germany, we value the ties we have with the British and we value your voice in Europe. So I say to MPs: if you want to think again on Euratom, we are all ears.

As we all face the disaster of Brexit, perhaps it's too much to hope MPs will tell the British people: "We've all made a colossal mistake."

2017 July 18

New Mathematics

New Scientist

Australian prime minister Malcom Turnbull: "The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

Turnbull wants to force tech companies to give security services access to encrypted messages. Encryption uses hard mathematics that cannot be overturned by an eavesdropper. With all due respect to security services who want to read messages sent by suspected terrorists, encryption cannot be weakened for terrorists unless it is weakened for everyone.

UK home secretary Amber Rudd recently called encryption completely unacceptable. Late last year, the UK parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act that would force companies to remove encryption. But encryption is also used for online shopping, bank transactions, and so on. Politicians need to understand this.

Like it or not, the laws of mathematics are here to stay.

Classical Electrodynamics


Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell was the great genius of Victorian theoretical physics. His equations uniting electricity and magnetism enabled him to conclude light was electromagnetic radiation. All later physics, including relativity and quantum mechanics, flowed from those equations and that insight. All the electric and electronic technology that has transformed our world traces its theoretical ancestry to them.

I have spent the last week or so reliving (yet again) the drama of his discoveries by reading my way through a tolerably informal mathematical derivation of the equations from first principles. The hard work of writing it all out was accomplished with easy fluency and a light touch by Yale professor Ramamurti Shankar over some 300 pages of the second volume of his text Fundamentals of Physics. The experience has been a joy for me.

Let no one say physics is dull. Take your time and it comes alive. The saga of how we went from tinkering with a collection of curious experimental results in electricity and magnetism to a deep and satisfying theoretical account that led us inexorably to transform basic mechanics from its Newtonian roots first to special relativity and then to quantum mechanics is one of the greatest tales of our era. It sure beats Wagnerian opera!

2017 July 17


Malte Laub

Die sozialen Unterschiede in Großbritannien sind eklatant. Dass diese Unterschiede existieren, bezweifelt in Großbritannien kaum jemand. Selbst wenn man die Monarchie mit der Queen an der Spitze außen vor lässt, zerfällt die britische Gesellschaft in sieben Klassen, laut der 2013 BBC Great British Class Survey.

Fast die Hälfte der Bevölkerung werden in die drei untersten Klassen einsortiert, allein 15% im Prekariat. Diese Menschen haben ein durchschnittliches Jahreseinkommen von nur 8.000 Pfund, so gut wie keine Ersparnisse oder Grundbesitz und sind auch sozial und kulturell benachteiligt.

Wer nach den Ursachen für diese Armut und damit für die extremen Unterschiede in der britischen Gesellschaft sucht, muss sich drei Faktoren vor Augen führen:

1 In der britischen Geschichte gab es keine bürgerliche Revolution.
2 Das britische Bildungssystem ist immer noch unbeweglich.
3 Der Neoliberalismus der letzten 40 Jahre hat die Situation verschärft.

Die soziale Mobilität ist in Großbritannien besonders gering. Als Voraussetzung für hohe soziale Mobilität gilt allgemein ein Bildungssystem, das auch den Angehörigen der unteren Schichten gute Chancen bietet. Doch in Großbritannien hängt es noch heute von der Klassenzugehörigkeit ab, wer welche Schule besucht.

Überdurchschnittlich viele Angehörige der Eliten waren auf angesehenen Hochschulen: 10 von 23 Kabinettsmitgliedern in Theresa Mays neuer Regierung haben Abschlüsse von Oxford oder Cambridge, sie selbst auch. Drei ihrer Minister kommen aus dem gleichen Studiengang: PPE — Philosophy, Politics, and Economics an der University of Oxford.

AR Auch ich habe einen Oxford PPE-Abschluss
bin aber kein Vertreter der Oberschicht.

Brexit — KBO?

Anoosh Chakelian

Nicholas Soames MP, a former army officer and an ardent Europhile, offers advice to the prime minister: "Do not be defined by Brexit. Don't allow this to dominate the whole of the government."

On Brexit: "We look like we're not the country we were. I worry greatly. We don't have a skilled economy. We are way behind on our technical training. This is a poorly educated country, frankly .. I'm not optimistic for my country. I don't see how we're ever going to project our influence and our standing and our power outside the EU .. Britain's voice is going to diminish, I'm afraid."

He quotes his grandfather Winston Churchill — keep buggering on.

Trillion Dollar Turkey

The Times

The F-35 joint strike fighter was supposed to answer to all western air defence needs for the early decades of this century. It is turning into an object lesson in the pitfalls of procurement. If the UK Ministry of Defence continues on its present course, it may find the planes for its two new aircraft carriers are vulnerable to hackers, unable to fly in full stealth mode, and even in some cases too heavy to fly at all.

Though JSF development began in 1996, the aircraft still has numerous flaws. These include poor acceleration through the sound barrier. Test pilots find it underpowered in dogfights. Engineers find it unreliable even by stealth aircraft standards. For the UK, its ability to offer updated information about enemy movements far beyond the horizon is available in stealth mode only with the purchase of additional kit.

The full cost of the 14 aircraft delivered to Britain so far is likely to be closer to £150 million each than the up to £100 million cited by Lockheed Martin. The MoD has committed to buying 138 F-35s. The JSF program was meant to meet a wide range of service needs at once, at minimum cost. A trillion dollars later, the F-35 is a turkey. MoD officials say the project is on time, on budget, and the best option for Britain!

Brexit — Chaotic Handling

Guy Verhofstadt

Brexit is about the whole of the UK. It will affect all UK citizens, and EU citizens in the UK. This is much bigger than one political party's internal divisions or short term electoral positioning. It's about people's lives.

The Brexit negotiations need to be conducted with full transparency. I believe they should involve more people with more diverse opinions. Some recognition that the election result was, in part, a rejection of a hard Brexit would be welcome.

The handling of Brexit so far has been somewhat chaotic. Over a year since the referendum we have only just started the negotiations. This delay has not been good for the UK, or for the EU, or for citizens.

Novel Mathematics

Erica Klarreich

Maryam Mirzakhani said mathematics research feels like writing a novel. "There are different characters, and you are getting to know them better. Things evolve, and then you look back at a character, and it's completely different from your first impression."

As a graduate at Harvard, Mirzakhani was captivated by hyperbolic geometry. On a hyperbolic surface with two or more holes, some geodesics are infinitely long but others close into a loop. The number of closed geodesics of a given length grows exponentially with their length. Almost all of them cut across themselves many times before closing up smoothly. Vanishingly few simple geodesics never intersect themselves.

In her 2004 doctoral thesis, Mirzakhani developed a formula for how the number of simple geodesics of length L grows as L gets larger. She solved two other major research questions along the way. Her thesis resulted in three papers published in the three top mathematics journals.

In 2006, Mirzakhani began a collaboration with Alex Eskin. They tackled a problem concerning the behavior of billiard balls bouncing around polygonal tables. Zig-zag paths on a table can be mapped to straight lines on a translation surface. Understanding the moduli space of all translation surfaces is the key to understanding billiards.

In 2012 and 2013, Mirzakhani and Eskin proved a major set of results about such translation surfaces. Their 172-page paper is the beginning of a new era.


British Antarctic Survey
A trillion tons of ice broke off Antarctica

Maryam Mirzakhani
Maryam Mirzakhani


Macron treats Trump
to display of French
pomp in Paris

"Democracy is the theory that
the common people know what
they want, and deserve to
get it good and hard."
H.L. Mencken

Claude Shannon worked at
Bell Labs and published his
mathematical theory of
communication in 1948.
He saw that bits are a
universal interface.

Black hole simulation
Our best black hole image yet,
thanks to Christopher Nolan
and Kip Thorne

Juno image recalls
Vincent van Gogh


"Go whistle"
Boris Johnson

"I am not hearing any whistling,
just a clock ticking."
Michel Barnier

Bojo: Die Union könne
"pfeifen gehen"

Grammatischer Patzer
schon im Titel


2017 July 16

Maryam Mirzakhani


Maryam Mirzakhani (1977—2017) was an Iranian mathematician and a professor at Stanford University. She won three gold medals at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1994 and 1995 and won the Field Medal in 2014.

Mirzakhani worked on the theory of moduli spaces of Riemann surfaces. She discovered a formula expressing the volume of a moduli space with a given genus as a polynomial in the number of boundary components. She proved a theorem on closed geodesics on a compact hyperbolic surface. With others, she proved that complex geodesics and their closures in moduli space are regular.

Jordan Ellenberg: "Among other things, she studies billiards. But now, in a move very characteristic of modern mathematics, it gets kind of meta: She considers not just one billiard table, but the universe of all possible billiard tables. And the kind of dynamics she studies doesn't directly concern the motion of the billiards on the table, but instead a transformation of the billiard table itself, which is changing its shape in a rule-governed way; if you like, the table itself moves like a strange planet around the universe of all possible tables .. This isn't the kind of thing you do to win at pool, but it's the kind of thing you do to win a Fields Medal."

Mirzakhani: "Of course, the most rewarding part is the 'aha' moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new — the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. Most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight."

AR See blog 2014-08-13.

Brexit — World Role

Tom Tugendhat

We must decide what role the UK is willing to play in the questions that will define this century.

Members of Parliament must lead the debate about what sort of international role the UK can play. Grand strategy cannot be made behind closed doors. A new foreign policy vision can only be successful if there is public consensus behind it.

Parliamentary committees can be hubs for new thinking about the UK role on the global stage.

Brexit — Rough Ride

Gus O'Donnell

David Davis says Brexit makes landing on the Moon look simple. Sir Jeremy Heywood says Brexit is the most complex challenge the civil service has faced in our peacetime history. Amyas Morse says UK preparations risk falling apart like a chocolate orange.

Brexit was a complex challenge for a government with a clear majority and a strong and stable leader. The government now has to get detailed legislation through with a slender majority that could evaporate at key moments. We are in for a rough ride.

Brexit — Nuclear Calamity

Ian Chapman

The ITER project will demonstrate nuclear fusion power on a commercial scale. It involves the European Union, US, Japan, South Korea, China, Russia, and India. Fusion can operate alongside solar, wind, and other renewables to power the world to a carbon-free future.

For decades, the UK has led the world in addressing this grand challenge. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) operates the Joint European Torus (JET) on behalf of Europe. In so doing, we have acquired unique capabilities in critical areas for fusion.

On 29 March, the UK government declared an intention to leave Euratom at the same time as leaving the EU. The existing Euratom R and D program ends in 18 months. It is vital that we negotiate a solution for a strong future relationship with Euratom.

2017 July 15


Veronique Greenwood

Humans have a shockingly high mutation rate. Our survival as a species suggests we have a way of dumping dangerous mutations.

It may seem that natural selection acts on mutations one by one. But perhaps the fates of mutations are linked in synergistic epistasis where having one mutation can compound the effects of another. Thus an individual with more mutations is not just additively but more like exponentially worse off.

As the number of nasty genetic errors in a population rises, natural selection will dump lots of them out of the genome together. In sexual organisms, because mutations from each parent can recombine randomly onto the same chromosomes, the synergistic expulsion can work faster.

Synergistic epistasis has been acting on us and other organisms. Fewer individuals than expected have large numbers of dangerous mutations, suggesting that at the high end there is stronger selection against such individuals. There is no shortage of individuals with milder mutations.

Sexual reproduction shuffles parental genes together in new combinations. It is hard to justify as an evolutionary strategy because a sexual organism passes on only half of its genes. An asexually reproducing organism gets double the benefit, none of the hassle. Yet sex continues.

Sex pays off if it gets rid of dangerous mutations. Perhaps it wipes them out by shuffling them into freaks that fail to breed.


Martin Wolf

The UK is making a spectacular mess of Brexit.

In an unnecessary referendum, a small majority chose an option that had not been worked out. A new prime minister adopted the hardest possible interpretation of the outcome and triggered exit before shaping a negotiating position. Then, in an unnecessary election, she lost both her majority and her authority.

The Conservative party is so split over Brexit as to be no longer a coherent party of government. Party Brextremists fail to understand that with no deal the UK would default on its legal obligations to EU members. Anyone who thinks those members would then cooperate over vital British interests is dreaming.

The UK ship of state is stuck between a rock and a hard race. Brextremists have reduced British politics to a shambles. There is no exit from Brexit and no easy way to a deal.

AR HMS Britannia sinks off Dunkirk.

Stop Brexit

Tony Blair

Britain is suffering from politics. If the will of the British people remains as it was in June of last year, then Brexit will happen. But we can change our will.

The Macron victory changes Europe. The EZ will integrate economic decision making. Europe will have an inner and outer circle. Reform is on the agenda.

The British people want a strong relationship with Europe. A majority oppose hard Brexit. As for immigration, the French and Germans share British worries.

Brexit is the biggest British political decision since 1940. The government program is dominated by Brexit. It has no bandwidth to do anything else.

Government Brexit policy has turned into hard Brexit or no deal. The Conservative manifesto was typical tough Tory policy on social care and school meals, plus fox hunting. The public recoiled.

I propose a radical policy agenda. The NHS, schools and skills, nurseries, welfare, and retirement all need fundamental redesign. Communities and people left behind need to be helped, infrastructure needs to be built anew, and we need affordable housing.

Brexit is a massive distraction.

2017 Bastille Day

Take Back Control

Philip Collins

The UK government has published its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The bill incorporates accepted EU law into the English legal system and repeals the 1972 European Communities Act.

The government has awarded itself vastly excessive executive power. The task of melding EU and UK law is very tangled. The first major constitutional event under the new sovereignty will be ministers exercising powers to amend legislation without parliamentary scrutiny.

Conservatives are meant to place wise administration before madcap utopian schemes. Yet, gripped by the colossally stupid notion that Britain as a member of the EU was not a free nation, they regard any economic price as worth the invisible benefit of sovereignty.

The politicians who got us into this mess don't know what they're doing. Their view of the EU is too ideologically narrow. The prime minister needs to take back control.

Confront The Chancers

Martin Kettle

The domestic political context of Brexit is shifting. In Brussels, Michel Barnier leads an organized and rational team of negotiators. In London, amateurs, blowhards, and chancers rule.

Theresa May continues to repeat her Brexit mantras. She is getting on with the job, working to get a good deal, always talking as if the outcome is certain. But she is trapped by the growing realization that Brexit is heading to be an economic and diplomatic disaster for Britain.

In Hamburg, Donald Trump offered Britain a "very, very big" trade deal "very, very quickly" but has no authority to deliver one. For the UK, the trade partners that matter most are places like Germany, Benelux, and France. Rational statecraft would seek to preserve that trade.

The EU is still being patient with Britain. May could be tempted to appease the Brextremists to survive her party conference. She must confront them.

Boson Stars?

New Scientist

No one knows how black holes work inside. They must either destroy information at their central singularity — no go in quantum theory — or surround themselves at the event horizon with a firewall — no go in general relativity. So perhaps the ones we think we see are actually boson stars.

Fermions, such as protons and electrons, have half-integer spin. They cannot occupy the same quantum state as one another, so electrons arrange themselves in different energy states around an atomic nucleus, explaining the periodic table in chemistry. Fermions are identified by their unique quantum states and obey Fermi-Dirac statistics.

Bosons, such as photons, have integer spin and obey Bose-Einstein statistics, so any number of them can pile into the same quantum state — and lose their separate identities in doing so. Bosons carry the forces by which fermions interact — photons carry the electromagnetic force. A bosonic collective state is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.

When fermionic matter forms a star, gravitational pressure heats it up enough to ignite nuclear fusion and radiate light. By contrast, boson stars would just form big toroidal lumps. They would be transparent and invisible, given away only by their gravity. A compact boson star would bend light around it, causing a lensing effect like a black hole.

A boson star will attract mass, warm up, and emit EM radiation. Spin 0 bosons could form stars. But photons have spin 1, so no go. The Higgs boson has spin 0 but its mass is 125 GeV, so no go too. For bosons, the smaller their mass, the bigger the stars they form. We're stuck.

AR I have added content to this cut to make it crunchier. A massive boson star would be a black hole too, so I see no payoff — the problems inside are just as crass. And since a boson star would attract fermions, it might well look much like any other star. But what are these bosons? They aren't in the Standard Model.

2017 July 13

The Russian Connection

The New York Times

Rob Goldstone: "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump."

Donald Trump Jr: "If it's what you say I love it."

Trump Jr appears to be in real legal jeopardy. Federal campaign finance law prohibits political campaigns from soliciting anything of value from foreign nationals.

In the Trump world, ethics is for suckers. Republicans in Congress are maintaining their head-between-the-knees position as the Trump plane spirals downward.

America's First Family

Edward Luce

The Trump administration is little more than the Trump family plus some disposable retainers.

Donald Trump Jr solicited damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin. To Federal prosecutors, this is evidence of collusion with a foreign power.

At the G20 summit, Trump spent 135 minutes talking to Vladimir Putin. No one has a clue what they agreed. The USA and Russia now belong on the same moral plane.

During a G20 meeting, Trump left the room and Ivanka Trump took his place at the table between Xi Jinping and Theresa May. No other western democracy operates like this.

As long as Trump is president, the USA is vulnerable.

The Rock

The Guardian

King Felipe VI of Spain, addressing an audience of peers and MPs in the House of Lords as part of his state visit to the UK, said the two countries had overcome differences in the past:

"I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved."

Bojo Defends Rock

The UK Foreign Office, headed by Boris Johnson, defended the expulsion of a Spanish warship from the disputed waters around Gibraltar. A Spanish patrol boat was told to leave on Tuesday by a Royal Navy unit from the Gibraltar squadron. Spain wants Gibraltar back and does not recognise the waters as sovereign British overseas territory.

The status of Gibraltar is part of the Brexit negotiations.

The European Project

Ann Mettler, Paweł Świeboda

The EU is delivering economically. The EZ and broader EU recently recorded their highest ever employment, investment is up, and growth is projected to be twice as fast as US growth. Leaders have stood for reform in Europe.

A white paper on the future of Europe published in March 2017 is being called the birth certificate of the EU27. Europeans are ready to invest in the common project. They realize that disintegration, illiberal democracy, and populism are profoundly dangerous.

Europe can only prosper on the basis of the vitality and legitimacy of the EU. Fundamental political choices must not be fudged or decided behind closed doors. A wide debate is needed, engaging citizens in new ways and making sure their voice matters.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will lay out additional initiatives in his next state of the union speech in September. For the EU to pursue business as usual would be a profound misreading of the public mood.

2017 July 12

Clash of Civilizations

Martin Wolf

Donald Trump: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?"

Radical Islamist terrorism is a concern. But to judge it an overriding existential threat is ludicrous. Nazism was an existential threat. So was Soviet communism. Terrorism is just a nuisance.

We must beware the self-fulfilling prophecy of a clash of civilizations, not just because it is untrue, but because we have to cooperate. The ideal of a global community reflects today's reality. Technology and economic development have made humans masters of the planet and dependent upon one another. Borders are arbitrary.

In a nuclear age, war should be unthinkable. But that does not make it impossible. Managing frictions among nuclear-armed powers is an inescapable necessity.

Global Nuclear Weapons

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Country Deployed Total   The overall number of nuclear weapons in the world continues to decline. But all of the nuclear-armed states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. They will not be prepared to give them up for the foreseeable future.

At the start of 2017, nine states possessed about 4150 operationally deployed nuclear weapons. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possessed a total of about 14 935 nuclear weapons.
USA 1800 6800
Russia 1950 7000
UK 120 215
France 280 300
China 270 270
India ~125 ~125
Pakistan ~135 ~135
Israel 80 80
N Korea ~15 ~15

Finis Germaniae

Adam Soboczynski

Im Kern, erklärt Rüdiger Safranski, gehe es in dem diskussionswürdigen Werk von Sieferle doch nicht darum, Auschwitz zu leugnen, sondern mitzudenken, "dass dieses 20. Jahrhundert so voll von den Großverbrechen war". Auf "einer metaphysischen Deutungsebene" werde in Finis Germania dargelegt, wie nach "der allgemeinen Überlieferung sich dann ein auserwähltes Volk und das extrem Böse, das Deutsche gewissermaßen gegenüberstehen" — eine Gedankenfigur, die auch jüdische Denker schon formuliert hätten.

Finis Germania: Hitler sei es "für alle Zeiten" gelungen, "den Deutschen und den Juden eine komplementäre Sonderrolle" in der Welt zuzuweisen. Es gebe ein "positiv auserwähltes Volk", nämlich die Juden, und ein "negativ auserwähltes Volk", die Deutschen. Im Programm des antifaschistisch inspirierten Multikulturalismus macht man sich nun Sieferle zufolge genau diese Opposition zunutze, um "das indigene Volk der Industrieländer" zum Gegner zu erklären und "dessen Widerstand gegen Immigration und Überfremdung" zu brechen.

Kurz: Der Holocaust rottet die Deutschen aus, denn die Antifaschismus-Keule sorgt heute dafür, dass wir jeden Migranten ins Land lassen und somit untergehen.

AR Deutschland ist in Europa integriert — am besten so können die Deutschen sich aus dieser Selbstdiffamierung retten.



Battle of Britain Memorial Flight turns 60: A legitimate piece of living history is mutating slowly into a focus for celebrating
national exceptionalism that borders on pathological jingoism — Britain punches above its weight on the global stage etc.

Merkel, Xi
Merkel, Xi

"The more strain on its ends,
the tighter it becomes"
Angela Merkel

Party 1
Party 2
Party 3
Reception with Poole
colleagues last night

Three Nutshells
and a Jackson


2017 July 11

Apple v Google

Mihir A. Desai

Apple and Google parent company Alphabet are the two most valuable companies in the world, with a combined market capitalization of over $1.3 trillion.

Apple and Google have taken completely different approaches to their shareholders and to the future, one driven by investors and the other by founders and executives.

Apple faced pressure to redistribute its cash pile of almost $100 billion by the end of 2011 to shareholders. Most of the cash was in Ireland, and it would incur big US taxes upon repatriation. So from 2013 to March 2017, Apple released $200 billion via dividends and buybacks, and took on $99 billion in US-sourced debt.

Google founders maintained voting control over the company. But by 2012, as the founders sold stock and employees were issued shares in their compensation packages, Google gave founder shares 10 times the voting power of regular shares. From 2013 to March 2017, Google generated $114 billion in cash flow but only distributed $7 billion to shareholders.

On how to spend the profits, the interests of managers and investors can diverge. Apple lets investors dominate, which checks managers who might pursue goals that enrich themselves. Google lets managers decide, since big investors who also act for other shareholders may not serve the real interests of the company.

No one knows which is the better strategy.

Brexit and National Humiliation

Gideon Rachman

Brexit Britain appears to face a choice between three different types of humiliation:

1 Britain becomes so desperate for a trade deal that it accepts all the EU terms, including a bill of up to €100 billion, the free movement of people, and the jurisdiction of the ECJ.

2 Britain refuses, crashes out of the EU without a deal, bets on the promised "very, very big" trade deal with Trump's America, and makes "global Britain" look like a sick joke.

3 Britain accepts that there is no good Brexit and abandons the whole idea. Even to secure a return to the EU, Britain might have to give up its cherished budget rebate.

Each of these results will cause dismay and anger in Britain. Eurocrats may find a Britain humbled by Brexit easier in the long run. Postwar Germany shows being humbled can be good for the soul.

2017 July 10


China Daily

China has always attached great importance to Germany.

Germany is a competitive exporter and manufacturer, and thus an ideal model for China. Its social welfare and market system have been widely debated in China. For decades, Germany has had a big market share in China.

President Xi Jinping is likely to discuss with German leaders how to further boost bilateral ties and become bigger players in each other's markets by removing trade and investment barriers.

Globalization faces increasing challenges, especially with the UK departure from the EU and US policy to make America Great Again, which is nothing but trade protectionism. US President Trump has also pulled the United States out of the global climate change agreement.

Germany champions free trade and closer global connectivity, and remains committed to fighting climate change.

For China, Germany is the way into the EU economy.

A Postmodern Power

The Economist

As a top exporter embedded in the Eurasian continent, Germany is heavily invested in globalization. Environmental, trade, and regulatory disruptions hurt it more than most. Its defences are geopolitical alliances, diplomatic compromises, and a dense web of links.

Angela Merkel has moved closer to China in response to the US political turn, but has kept her options open. She is constructively ambiguous. But she can move fast and hard — flipping positions on nuclear power in 2011, on refugees in 2015, and last month on EU treaty change in support of Emmanuel Macron.

Germany makes no pretence of self-sufficiency. It accepts its own vulnerability, its own lack of a reliable protector, its own inextricability from mutually compromising alliances and sub-alliances. Ulrich Speck calls Germany a postmodern power.

EU Citizens

Guy Verhofstadt

In the European Parliament we accept that the Brexit decision was a democratic choice. We are not convinced Brexit would be a positive development for European citizens. The UK proposal fails to put citizens first and would cast a dark cloud over the lives of millions of Europeans.

Michel Barnier wants British people and Europeans to keep the same rights and the same level of protection they currently enjoy under European law. All rights acquired before the date of withdrawal will be directly enforceable, with lifelong protection, full reciprocity and equal treatment. A majority of the British people want to keep their EU citizenship.

The UK response proposes that Europeans would have fewer rights than British citizens are offered throughout the EU. Europeans will not only lose their right to vote in local elections, but family members will be subject to minimum income requirements, and each family member, including children, will have to make separate applications for settled status. Those who do not meet the five-year residence requirement by the end of the grace period will have to make one application to stay and another one for settled status.

The real cause for concern lies in the continuing uncertainty. British courts apply the laws adopted by British politicians. British and European citizens should be able to enforce their rights under a mechanism in which the ECJ plays a full role.

Brexit negotiations must be completed by 30 March 2019. Any extension would require the UK to hold European elections in May 2019. That is unthinkable.

A Better Way

The Times

Theresa May pledges to be more open and conciliatory and calls on opponents to work together to shape a better way forward for Britain after Brexit. She appeals to Labour and other parties to come forward with their ideas for policy.

AR Internally, the only conceivable way for the UK to make a success of Brexit is with cross-party agreement. Externally, the only way is with EU good will. Altogether, a better way to ensure UK success is to give up the whole stupid idea.

2017 July 9

G20 Leaders' Declaration

G20 Germany 2017

Mastering the challenges of our age and shaping an interconnected world is the common goal of the G20 as our premier forum for international economic cooperation.

Globalisation and technological change have contributed significantly to driving economic growth and raising living standards across the globe. However, globalisation has created challenges and its benefits have not been shared widely enough. By bringing together developed and emerging market economies, the G20 is determined to shape globalisation to benefit all people.

We are resolved to tackle common challenges to the global community, including terrorism, displacement, poverty, hunger and health threats, job creation, climate change, energy security, and inequality including gender inequality, as a basis for sustainable development and stability. We decide today to take concrete actions to advance the three aims of building resilience, improving sustainability and assuming responsibility.

We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.

AR I have zoomed on a hot topic, naturally.

German Antihero

Christopher Caldwell

German historian Rolf Peter Sieferle took his own life last September at age 67. Last month, a posthumous collection of his observations on German political culture, Finis Germania, hit #9 on the Nonfiction Book of the Month list and #1 on the Amazon German bestseller list.

Sieferle rues and resents the tragic course of German history: "If Germany belongs to the most progressive, civilized, cultivated countries, then Auschwitz means that at any moment the human progress of modernity can go into reverse."

Sieferle is critical of the postwar culture of Holocaust memory, which he argues has taken on the traits of a religion. Hitler bound Germans and Jews together in a narrative for all time. Germans appear in this narrative as the absolute enemies of our common humanity, as a scapegoat people.

Sieferle sees Germans as the new Jews. Christians had cast Jews as either indifferent to or responsible for the crucifixion. Today, German identity symbolizes a similar rejection of some kind of revelation. Sieferle: "Today, the Jews, to whom God himself had promised eternity, build memorials throughout the world to their murdered coreligionists. Not only are the victims ascribed a moral superiority, the wrongdoers and their symbols are ascribed an eternal depravity."

Sieferle thought all this had left Germans unable to say anything but yes to a million or so migrants seeking entry to Europe in 2015. He thought such a welcome was unsustainable. His argument can sound thoroughly offensive.

AR I must read this tract.

2017 July 8

UN Treaty Bans Nuclear Weapons

Global Security

Countries meeting at a UN conference adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Statement from France, UK, US

France, the United Kingdom, and the United States have not taken part in the negotiation of the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons.

Putin v Trump

Jen Psaki

Vladimir Putin should not have had the upper hand. The Russian agenda was to publicly mend the relationship, to gain a better understanding of US policy, and to discuss joint concerns over terrorism. They scored on all three.

Leading American intelligence agencies, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and many others are confident that the Russians intervened in the American election last year. But a simple assurance from President Putin overrides that. For the Russians, the public case is closed.

Fight Like the Poles

Daily Beast

Sarah Palin tweet:
Trump Gives Speech to the People of Poland, Says 14 Words That Leave Americans Stunned

Young Conservatives CEO Josh Riddle:
This is the 14-word quote the social media post is referencing:
Let us all fight like the Poles. For family, freedom, for country, for God.

AR Here is an immortal episode from European history the Young Conservatives might like:

In 1683, an Ottoman army of between one and two hundred thousand men led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha advanced on Vienna and besieged the city for two months, but was then defeated by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The death blow for the Ottomans came when some twenty thousand cavalrymen — reputedly the largest cavalry charge in history, led by King Jan III of Poland at the head of three thousand "winged hussars" — charged down a hill and broke the Ottoman lines. In less than three hours, the Christians had won. Vienna was saved. After the battle, King Jan paraphrased Julius Caesar by saying Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit (we came, we saw, God conquered). The Christians pressed home their victory and forced the Ottomans to give up large territories in Europe.

(from my book Coral, p. 116)

2017 July 7

Physics in a Nutshell

A. Zee

"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."

Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell

Quantum field theory remains the true theory of everything. All of physics can now be said to be derivable from field theory. To start with, quantum field theory contains quantum mechanics as a (0 + 1)‑dimensional field theory, and to end (perhaps) with, string theory may be formulated as a (1 + 1)‑dimensional field theory. Quantum field theory can arguably be regarded as the pinnacle of human thought.

Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell

Einstein gravity has in time become a model for theoretical physics. It remains to be seen how fruitful this approach will prove to be, but there is no denying its appeal for theoretical physicists. Latch onto a well-established but not understood physical fact, start with an attractive mathematical framework, get the whole enchilada in one fell swoop, and enjoy a dramatic, almost immediate, confirmation. When this approach works, as it did for Einstein, it's fabulous, no question.

Group Theory in a Nutshell for Physicists

Group theory is much more than a temptress: it is our indispensable guide to a fundamental understanding of the universe. The Lorentz group determines for us how the fundamental fields should comport themselves in spacetime. Eventually, group theory, together with quantum field theory, shows us how three of the four fundamental interactions can be unified. And thus we arrive at the threshold of our understanding of the universe.

AR Great — were it not for the bad dreams of Brexit, nuclear war, climate change ..

G20 leaders
An image of order in a city become an anarchist battlefield


G20 is the central forum for
international cooperation on
financial and economic issues.
G20 accounts for more than
80% of GWP, 75% of global
trade, and some 65% of
world population.

"The Liberal Democrats
do not want to go down the coalition road again. I have
the metaphor of mating with
a praying mantis — you get
eaten at the end of it."
Vince Cable

Trump, Duda
Presidents Trump and Duda
in Warsaw on Thursday

Foreign Funded Islamist
Extremism in the UK

The Henry Jackson

US-SK test
US Forces Korea response

NK missile
"My gift to American bastards!"
Kim Jong Un

"Hard Brexit means
people fleeing UK"
Jeremy Hunt

AR Me 4 1

A photographic stroll along
the prom from Canford Cliffs
to Bournemouth Pier


Stow Shirts
60% of Brits want to remain
EU citizens after Brexit



2017 July 6


Glyndebourne Festival 2017

An opera in two acts by Brett Dean, based on the play by William Shakespeare

AR A bold and vivid production with an audaciously Wagnerian intensity

EU Red Lines

Michel Barnier

We must face the facts. In a classic negotiation 'no deal' means a return to the status quo. In the case of Brexit, 'no deal' is a return to a distant past.

I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade — that is not possible.

1 The free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital are indivisible. We cannot let the single market unravel.

2 There can by no sector by sector participation in the single market.

3 The EU must maintain full sovereignty for deciding regulations.

These three points were already made clear by the European Council and by the European Parliament. But I am not sure whether they have been fully understood across the Channel.

AR The UK government got it wrong. It was clear to me from the start.

Vote Leave Doubts

Jonathan Freedland

As the reality of Brexit comes ever closer, remainers concede that the only way it can be halted is if British public opinion has a change of heart, collectively repudiating their 2016 vote.

Vote Leave director Dominic Cummings was behind the "£350 million for the NHS" slogan on the side of the battlebus. He says that unless MPs force management changes on both Downing Street and Dexeu, the Brexit negotiations will be a guaranteed debacle. For Brexit to work, there has to be wholesale reform of Whitehall, British education, science, and productivity. He had already described Brexit as "the hardest job since beating Nazis" and said it was being handled incompetently.

There will be more in this vein as the consequences of Brexit become more real. As people see the scale of the upheaval, there will be more people who admit they got it wrong.

AR Stuck as I am in the middle of this horror, I can only hope good sense finally prevails.


Ruchir Sharma

Poland is an economic star. Since 1991, its economy has grown at an average annual rate of 4%. Its average income has risen to near $13,000, from $2,300. Poland set out to distance itself from Russia, and adopted the financial discipline and institutional reforms required to join the EU.

Warsaw is the conservative opposite of decadent Moscow. Its tycoons embrace entrepreneurship with an enthusiasm rarely found in Europe, making Poland a natural US ally. Poland is already one of the few NATO members meeting its commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.

Eastern Europe is rising, with small nations like the Czech Republic leading and Poland close behind. With a population of nearly 40 million and a half-trillion-dollar economy, Poland is working its way up as a manufacturing power. Exports from manufacturing account for a third of GDP in Poland.

The Polish deficit and public debt remain manageable, the currency remains stable, exports continue to boom, and the trade balance is in surplus. Poland, rising through manufacturing, is likely to be the next rich nation.

AR Poland's performance since 1991 outshines that of the UK.

Explaining Science

Clive Cookson

Science communicators explain scientific theory and practice to a general audience. As the sector has expanded in recent years, the focus has become public engagement. A British Science Association survey shows 20% of science communicators in the UK work mainly as freelancers.

Research Councils UK says funding bodies want to embed public engagement in research. A University of Bristol national coordinating center for public engagement (NCCPE) provides funding for specific projects and says all research programs must include public communication.

AR There is surely good work for me to do in this sector.

2017 July 5

Korean War Plans

Motoko Rich

The United States has no viable military option to destroy the NK nuclear program. Even a limited US strike risks staggering casualties, because NK could retaliate with thousands of artillery pieces aimed at SK. A strike would likely fail to wipe out the NK arsenal. NK says it would immediately retaliate with nuclear missiles.

AR Let China make the heavy move.

"Crush the Fuckers"

George Parker

Theresa May has been reduced to dealing with the DUP to secure a fragile Commons majority. Cabinet ministers are breaking ranks on Brexit and the economy. A minister: "There is no plan, no strategy, no direction."

In October, the Conservative party conference in Manchester will showcase a party torn over Brexit. A pro-EU MP on his Brextremist colleagues: "We can work with half the Labour party and crush the fuckers."

AR Worse things have happened in politics.

European Genesis

Krishnadev Calamur

German chancellor Angela Merkel looks set to be re-elected. Her main political opposition is trailing in polls and the far right appears to have peaked.

German ambassador to the US Peter Wittig: "We have an extremely good economic run: record low unemployment, record low youth unemployment .. pretty good social security system, less people that feel left behind, less losers of globalization, not a dramatic inequality. So there's a strong social tissue and that has helped us."

Nearly 70% of German voters favors EU membership. Wittig: "We have benefited from Europe. We don't have this anti-Brussels discourse."

AR Germany is the cradle of European union.

African Exodus

Carl Zimmer

With fossils and DNA, scientists are piecing together a picture of human origins. The expert consensus is that Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago in Africa. Johannes Krause and his colleagues report that Africans first walked out over 270,000 years ago and made their way to Europe.

AR Now the Africans are doing it again.

Bumpy Treks

Rafael Behr

When Donald Trump travels to Europe, his hosts can only hope he will not sabotage the western alliance. Theresa May will be challenged to overcome damage already done by the diplomatic vandalism of Brexit. The decision to quit the EU and the Trump election are terrible twins.

Brexit clouds everything May says in a miasma of unreliability. Her ambitions for the UK will mean nothing before the terms of departure from the EU are settled. She will find no queue of leaders eager to ingratiate themselves with a country on the threshold of magnificent liberation.

Brexit did not beget Trump, but there is a genetic link. The EU referendum demonstrated the insurgent potential of a campaign that mobilized economic and cultural grievance against a remote political elite. Trump called himself "Mr Brexit" and cast Nigel Farage as his supporting act.

Many Europeans saw the electoral shocks of 2016 as cautionary tales, not inspiring parables. Neither the EU referendum nor US presidential election now seems like a giant moment for geopolitics. The West has been doubly diminished.

AR Tragic — Untergang des Abendlandes

2017 Independence Day

US Threatened


North Korea claims to have conducted its first successful test of a long-range missile that it says can reach anywhere in the world. The Hwasong-14 IRBM reached a height of 2,800 km during a flight of 37 minutes over a horizontal distance of 930 km. The regime appears to have timed the launch for maximum political effect on the eve of the July 4 holiday.

"North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?" Donald Trump tweeted, referring to Kim Jong Un. "Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "The situation on the Korean Peninsula is sensitive and complex. We hope all relevant parties will exercise restraint and avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions."

AR This looks ominously like Korean War 2.

UK Diminished

Simon Fraser

The UK voted for the biggest international dislocation in its postwar history but has no discernible strategy. It is inconceivable that a deal can be negotiated by March 2019.

There are three broad scenarios for the post-Brexit economic relationship:

1 The UK stays in, or close to, the EU single market, perhaps via the EEA.
2 The UK leaves the single market but remains in a full or partial customs union.
3 The UK seeks the best preferential partnership it can get as a third country.

None of these outcomes matches the economic benefits of EU membership.

Gravitational Waves

Mark H. Kim

In February 2016, the leaders of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced that they had successfully detected gravitational waves.

A team of independent physicists led by Andrew Jackson has checked the data and found correlations that should not be there. They say the correlations could call the entire discovery into question.

LIGO scientific collaboration member Ian Harry published a rebuttal of their criticism. Harry says the Jackson team missed some subtleties in their data analysis, and that he could not reproduce their claimed correlations.

Gravitational waves are exceedingly faint, so LIGO can measure a change in distance of 100 zm. LIGO uses two observatories, 3 Mm apart to duplicate the observations. The noise at each detector should be uncorrelated, but a gravitational wave should create a nearly simultaneous signal in both instruments.

Jackson claims there appears to be correlated noise in the detectors at the time of the gravitational wave signal. At worst, the signal might have been louder noise.

Harry says the Jackson team could have misused the Fourier transform, which requires that the input data signal be cyclical. A non-cyclical signal would introduce subtle errors.

For now, confidence is high in the LIGO conclusions. The LIGO team have since found gravitational waves from two further black hole mergers.

AR Science at its best — always critical, always cautious.

Physics Books

A. Zee

Popular books on physics and physics textbooks present different challenges. I enjoy writing textbooks a bit more because the aim is to transmit enjoyment and knowledge to a new generation of physicists, just as that enjoyment and knowledge have been transmitted to me. That, in essence, is what physics is all about.

I am excited by the prospects of learning more about the dark world of energy and matter, and of experimentalists coming up with clever new approaches. I am struggling to finish a short popular book on Einstein gravity.

AR I am just embarking on climbing the mountain of Zee's Nutshell trilogy. For me it will be a tough but hopefully also exhilarating assignment.

2017 July 3

Gene Bomb

Matthew Cobb

Two new genetic technologies have started a scientific and medical revolution. One is the ability to easily decode the information in our genes. The other is our newfound capacity to modify or edit the DNA sequences of humans and other creatures.

The genomes of microbes contain regular DNA sequences called CRISPR — clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats. The bits of DNA found in the spaces between the repeats had come from viruses and had been integrated into the microbe genome.

The CRISPR sequences activate a series of proteins known as CRISPR-associated proteins that can unravel and attack DNA. The CRISPR sequence and one such protein act together as a kind of immune system for microbes.

The CRISPR-associated proteins can be used to alter any DNA to achieve a desired sequence. If you know a DNA sequence from a given organism, you can chop it up, delete it, and change it at will, much like using a word-processing program on texts.

Gene drives are artificial bits of DNA that rapidly spread through the population. When a gene drive is used, the frequency of the altered gene increases exponentially with each generation, rapidly flooding the whole population. A gene drive is essentially a biological bomb.

2017 July 2


National Rifle Association of America

They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again ...

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding ...

The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

Grace Under Fire

The New York Times

Donald Trump lacks the grace under fire that Richard Nixon showed in public. At the height of Watergate in late 1973, Nixon blurted at a news conference: "I have never heard or seen such outrageous, vicious, distorted reporting in 27 years of public life. I am not blaming anybody for that. Perhaps what happened is that what we did brought it about."


Daily Mirror

Jeremy Corbyn addressed thousands on Saturday at an anti-Tory rally in London organized by the People's Assembly Against Austerity.

Jez: "This is the movement that will win the next election."

Been There, Done That

The Sunday Times

Something momentous happened in Britain's relations with Europe. About a year later, Britain has a minority government cutting deals to try to get its legislation through the House of Commons. A wooden Tory prime minister, confident of a landslide victory in an election called in the national interest and on the question of whom voters trust to run the country in challenging times, ends up with egg on face. Britain enters a period of profound political instability.

The prime minister was Ted Heath, the year was 1974. The UK joined the EEC in 1973 and a large majority of Brits voted in the 1975 referendum to stay in it.

AR Times change: The EEC is now the EU and the UK looks like FUK.

A Green Brexit

Michael Gove

I want to ensure that we have a green Brexit: a Brexit which ensures that we develop policies on the environment and animal welfare which we would not have been able to do in the EU.

One of the things I want to do is see how we can better support investment in environmental goods rather than simply rewarding people for the number of hectares they have. If you've got a sum of money that large, it shouldn't be devoted to maintaining certain landowners in the style to which they have become accustomed.

AR Gove was on the Andrew Marr show this morning.
Marr: "Is no deal better than a bad deal?"
Gove: "Yes."

Quantum Multiverse

Yasunori Nomura

The inflationary multiverse might be the same as the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics if the formation of new bubble universes is simply an example of quantum-mechanical branching as viewed by a single hypothetical observer: a new bubble forming is equivalent to obtaining an outcome of a measurement. This picture solves the theory's predictability problem because the infinitely many bubble universes in this case coexist probabilistically rather than in one real space. In this conception, the observer in an inflationary multiverse can make predictions based on the probability of any event occurring.

AR This is good — it makes everything finite. Our Hubble bubble contains some 10^123 Planck grains of action, so even with some combinatorial jiggery-pokery the state space can be finite. And the principle of stationary action implies that broad outcomes are predictable even when individual state reductions are random on our timeline. So forget the infinite cosmic bubble bath Max Tegmark and Sean Carroll expected and forget the Everett nightmare of branching off into crazy worlds — we live on a timeline where all those crazy action paths cancel in the Feynman path integrals and everything is finite. Let's hope Nomura is right.

2017 July 1

World War II

Piers Brendon

In 1940, as France was collapsing under the German onslaught and the Dunkirk evacuation was under way, Winston Churchill decided to fight on, alone if necessary. He was the British bulldog, an incarnation of strength, courage, and tenacity.

In the austere aftermath of the war, its grim experiences were replayed in countless movies. They all assumed it was fought for a just cause. Shocking newsreel pictures of the liberation of Belsen consecrated it as a triumphant crusade against evil.

War films helped to sustain pride in British greatness as the exhausted country tried to win the peace while beset by grievous new troubles. In 1945 Britain was virtually bankrupt, facing what John Maynard Keynes called an economic Dunkirk.

Churchill's ghost haunts the bronze bust that Donald Trump restored to the Oval Office. Boris Johnson assures us that national salvation is to be found in standing alone. A fresh crop of war films reminds us of lost British greatness.

Free LSD For All!

Carlo Rovelli

If I ruled the world, I would step down and go back to theoretical physics. First I would:

Abolish borders and armies
Abolish private property
Abolish schools
Abolish such documents as passports
Abolish religion
Abolish hierarchies
Abolish tribal behavior

And I would make free LSD available for all adolescents willing to explore new realms.

AR Oh Carlo, your book on quantum gravity is lovely but this lot is utopian (except for the LSD idea, which is cute).


NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) image of a small impact crater
on the sloping wall of a larger crater. North is up, the slope is down westward, and the area shown is about 250 m wide.


Theresa May told the EU she
cannot control her ministers.
So EU delegates are visiting
UK ministries to thrash out a
unified British position on
which the EU can talk.

EU lead Brexit negotiator
Michel Barnier: "This is a crisis
on Europe's doorstep. The EU
has no choice but to intervene,
if only for humanitarian


Serena Williams

Evolutionary Christianity
EastLake Community
Church (1:11:01)

Die Konzentration von
Dichlormethan in der
Atmosphäre steigt an.
Der Chloranteil kann
Erholung der

USS Zumwalt

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Juan Maldacena
Juan Maldacena
His AdS/CFT duality links
anti-de Sitter spacetime to conformal field theory on its
boundary — the holographic
principle. His ER = EPR claim
links spacetime wormholes
(Einstein-Rosen bridges)
to quantum entanglements

British schoolboy heat protest:
Looks good — apart from
those stupid neckties

Hat Queen
Because she was not allowed
to express her own view
Mrs Windsor chose to
use interpretive hats
to get her message

Queen Elizabeth II
Her Speech heralds Brexit,
her hat says otherwise


2017 June 30

G20 Discord

Der Spiegel

US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross says Germany must buy raw materials from the United States instead of from Russia, lower tariffs on automobile imports from US manufacturers, and make sure American cars "obtain a larger share" of the European market.

Donald Trump could turn the G20 summit into a fiasco. His America First administration is sabotaging the search for joint positions among the G20 economies by seeing the world not as a global community but as an arena in which dog eats dog.

Transatlantic trade conflicts are multiplying. Washington views the EU fine levied against Google as a hostile act, and might back out of the joint fight against tax havens and tax dumping and for the joint regulation of financial markets and banks.

European G20 participants will form a common front against Trump.

AR UK too?

A Lot of Bother

Nick Clegg

An enduring myth among the elites of Westminster is that the argument over Brexit is won or lost by polemic and emotion. The British public were asked to vote in the referendum, so felt duty bound to do so. Some now say they would vote the other way.

More and more people are bewildered at the complexity of it all and frustrated at the incompetence on show. Voters were promised a quick and easy Brexit. There is only so much squabbling between members of the Cabinet that people will put up with.

People who knew it would be complex said Brexit would be as simple as flipping a switch. They told us that the EU needs us more than we need them, so we can just walk out overnight. They refused to listen to others who knew what they were talking about.

David Davis says Brexit makes the NASA Moon shot look quite simple. People were promised a walk in the park to Brexit, not a death defying Moon landing. That is certainly a whole lot of bother beyond what most voters expect or want.

AR Clegg went to a lot of bother to prop up the Conservatives back in 2010 and and in return was left for dead in 2015 by the rapacious scoundrels of the hard right.

2017 June 29


Philip Stephens

Possibly coming soon — another UK general election.
Boris "Bojo" Johnson fights Jeremy "Jez" Corbyn for the title of next prime minister:

— recalls the days when Britain ruled the waves
— speaks for continuing Anglophone supremacy
— continues to insist Britain can have its cake and eat it
— has always had a strained relationship with the truth
— has ambition undimmed by a woeful performance at the Foreign Office

— recalls the revolutionary socialism of his youth
— sees the EU as a capitalist conspiracy
— casts himself the honest politician in a sea of cynicism
— has policies that may be barmy but are authentic
— may have lost the last election but won what pundits call momentum

More than a year after the referendum, there is still no plan for Brexit.
Just Bojo versus Jez.

Brexit Battlebus — Dangerous Driver

Jenni Russell

Brexit secretary David Davis says sunny uplands lie ahead. An EU deal by March 2019 will give us almost all the trading benefits we currently enjoy and will quickly leave us free to sign trade agreements with the rest of the world. But EU officials say leaving the EU means the UK will trade on worse terms than now.

Davis has sublime confidence. Those who have worked with him say he hates to listen to advice, has delusions of grandeur, is vain and quixotic, and is all noise and bluster. Apparently he has no practical sense of the realities he is about to confront and prefers assertion to getting to grips with inconvenient facts.

His department, Dexeu, is finding it hard to recruit and keep staff. It has issued no details on how new arrangements for customs, immigration, or the Irish border would work. Industry representatives who visited Dexeu were left aghast at its approach and were fobbed off with vague assurances that it would all be fine.

Davis is said to have learned more realism than Liam Fox and Boris Johnson, but he has no interest in evidence that does not suit him. As the UK chief negotiator, he needs a shrewd grasp of British strategic needs and relative weakness. His role is not to grandstand or cheerlead, but to be a tactful and wily realist.

A senior Tory peer and Brexiteer: "I am frankly scared. I'd be surprised if it all went right now."

2017 June 28

UK Sovereignty

Stephen Bush

The European Commission, under direction from EU27 leaders, wants the rights of the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK and of the British diaspora in the EU guaranteed by the European Court of Justice. They want to secure the status of those citizens against the whims of a simple majority vote in the UK legislature.

The UK is one of the few countries in the EU where political elites can dismiss checks on legislative power by saying: "Well, what's the worst that could happen?" For the leaders of most EU27 states, a guarantee not backed up by the European Court of Justice is no guarantee at all.

Brextremists are concerned about sovereignty. Remaining subject to the rule of the ECJ without being able to set its parameters represents a significant loss of sovereignty. So Brexit minister David Davis concedes that there will have to be an international guarantor for any trade deal.

A new EU-UK international body would satisfy the letter of Theresa May's ECJ red line. On the EU27 side, the body would take its lead from ECJ and hence effectively subject the UK to the ECJ. You cannot satisfy both popular demand for hard borders and political demand for sovereignty at once.

AR A sovereign UK would have no brake to hinder a strong leader with a big parliamentary majority from ruling effectively by fiat, for example to expel foreigners. This constitutional deficit would represent a European fire risk.

2017 June 27


Financial Times

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "Google's strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn't just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals. Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results and demoting those of competitors. What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules."

AR Google will see the €2.4 billion fine as a tax bill.


The New York Times

President Trump is siding with Sunni Saudi Arabia and demonizing Shiite Iran.

In Syria, Iran and the United States share a common goal of defeating Daesh. But US officials fear the Iranians will seek control of enough territory in Syria and Iraq to establish a land bridge from Tehran to Lebanon. There they could resupply their Hezbollah allies.

Daesh is close to being routed from its headquarters in the city of Raqqa. But the prospect of victory has opened the door to new tensions between US and Iranian forces. US officials suspect that Iran is more interested in controlling territory in these areas than defeating Daesh.

Russia threatened to retaliate to recent US "self defense" moves by treating US warplanes as targets. Despite this, administration officials seem to consider Iran a bigger problem than Moscow.

Demonizing Iran could broaden the US military mission in the region.


The Guardian

Theresa May locks in parliamentary majority with £1 billion in promises to the DUP of Northern Ireland. The deal buys two years of support for her government.

AR That's an extra fiver a week per citizen in Northern Ireland.

2017 June 26

US Military Power

Jeremy Diamond

President Donald Trump has overseen a transfer of power from the White House to the Pentagon.

In Afghanistan, Trump has empowered defense secretary James Mattis to set troop levels. In Yemen and Somalia, Trump has given US commanders more freedom to launch raids and airstrikes without his OK. In Iraq and Syria, he has also granted the Pentagon more freedom to manage troop levels.

Trump administration officials describe the changes as a deliberate effort to empower the military. Much of the top brass described the Obama administration oversight of military campaigns as micromanagement that needlessly hamstrung commanders.

Retired General John Allen backs letting the military carry out missions more effectively and maintain the momentum against the enemy: "Many of these targets are very perishable. Every time I or other commanders had to come back to Washington for permissions, everything slowed down."

Steve Bannon: "The president believes the best thing to do is to let the warfighters fight the war."

2017 June 25

Weak Gravity and Cosmic Censorship

Natalie Wolchover

Singularities are snags in spacetime where general relativity breaks down and a quantum theory is needed. Naked singularities have now been shown not to exist in a toy 4D universe with an anti-de Sitter (AdS) spacetime geometry.

The weak gravity conjecture (WGC) is that gravity must always be the weakest force in any viable universe. Jorge Santos and Toby Crisford found that if another force in the toy universe is stronger than gravity, the singularity is censored by a black hole. It seems the cosmic censorship conjecture (CCC) is saved just where gravity becomes the weakest force.

It was thought that naked singularities can exist in a 4D AdS universe with a bounded spacetime — inside a tin can, say. But imagine an electromagnetic (EM) field and a gravitational field coexisting in the can. Cranking up the energy of the EM field on the surface of the can will cause spacetime to curve more sharply inside it, to form a naked singularity.

Cumrun Vafa was working to rule out large swaths of the 10^500 different possible universes that string theory naively allows. He did this by identifying swamplands where universes were too absurd to exist, and proposed the WGC as a swamplands test. Universes seem to fail unless gravity is weaker than the other forces, so the WGC swamps huge regions of the string landscape.

Vafa saw a link between the WGC and CCC. When Santos and Crisford cranked up the strength of the EM field on the surface of their can, they originally assumed that the interior was classical, with no quantum fluctuations. But if singular particles are more strongly coupled to the EM field than to gravity, as per the WGC, then cranking up the EM field adds enough energy to trigger collapse of singularities to black holes, as per the CCC.

Perhaps WGC iff CCC.

Jez We Can!

The Times

Glastonbury ravers burst out in Corbyn­mania when Jeremy Corbyn arrived in a Somerset field to find hordes of young women with "Jezza" and "I love Jez" written on their foreheads in glitter.

Corbyn, 68, was the first leading politician to appear at Glastonbury since the festival began 47 years ago — and no one was complaining that Theresa May had not shown up.

Corbyn basked in chants of "Oh Je-rem-y Cor-byn" and "Jez we can" as he waved his little red book (the Labour manifesto) and attacked the elites who had got it wrong.

Spreadsheet Phil For PM!

The Times

Philip Hammond could replace Theresa May as UK prime minister in a temporary alliance with Brexit minister David Davis. Ministers say Hammond should be anointed as leader before October provided he vows to stand down as Conservative leader before the next election.

A minister: "I think Philip is the only plausible candidate for a couple of years, with DD running Brexit. He is a more credible caretaker than the current prime minister."

DD: "It will be turbulent"

Anushka Asthana

UK secretary of state for exiting the EU David Davis says a leadership election to oust Theresa May would have a catastrophic effect on Brexit negotiations. He was unsure about securing a Brexit deal: "I never said it was a breeze. I said it will be turbulent, there will be difficulties but at the end there is a point of common interest."

On EU citizens in the UK: "They get the same residence rights, the same employment rights, the same rights, the same health rights, the same welfare rights, the same pensions rights and so on, almost the same as British citizens. The only thing they don't get is the right to vote — and we ask for the same the other way."

The disagreement came over the role of the European Court of Justice.

2017 June 24


New Scientist

Uranus has the weirdest magnetic field in our solar system. A new model suggests that the edge of its magnetic field bubble could be opening and shutting every day.

Most of the planets in our solar system rotate around similar axes, spinning in the same plane as their orbit. Their magnetic fields are aligned on the same axes, with field lines emerging from the cores of the planets near their N and S poles and wrapping them in magnetic shields.

Uranus is different. Its rotational axis is tilted about 1.7 rad from the plane of its orbit around the sun. The axis of its magnetic field is tilted 1.0 rad from the rotational axis and offset, with field lines emerging some distance from the S pole.

The Uranian magnetosphere tumbles in a complicated way. Carol Paty and Xin Cao created a model of the magnetosphere and its interactions with the solar wind that fits the best data to date.

The magnetosphere forms a shield against the solar wind: when the two are moving in the same direction, the solar wind slides by. But when they move in opposed directions, the bubble shield lets some wind particles flow inward.

Such magnetic reconnection occurs occasionally over Earth and can lead to intense auroras. On Uranus, Paty and Cao found that it should happen every U-day (about 62 ks), switching the bubble shield on and off. This could lead to auroras there too.

The best data on the field around Uranus is from from the Voyager 2 flyby in 1986. NASA dreams of sending a new probe to Uranus in 2034.


Dunkirk without the boats

Brexit will be dropped like a broken toy around 2020:
Labour will quietly ask the EU if we can stay after all.

2017 June 23

An International Laughing Stock

Rafael Behr

The pageantry of the Queen's speech is easy to mock. But this time the farce had nothing to do with the fancy costumes and archaic language. The UK has chosen to legislate itself out of the EU without having anything remotely resembling a credible plan for national prosperity on the other side.

Great chunks of Tory manifesto were expunged from the government agenda. Yet the Queen's speech contained eight bills relating to Brexit. Just one of them is so monstrously complicated it is hard to imagine parliament having the capacity to do much else over the next two years.

On Monday, Brexit secretary David Davis led his negotiators into their first session with their EU counterparts, led by Michel Barnier. The only measurable outcome was total capitulation by the UK side on the question of sequencing for the talks ahead. The EU27 insisted that agreement on divorce terms must precede discussion of future trading arrangements. The UK team had intended to dispute this timetable — but promptly folded.

Article 50 is activated. The clock is counting down, and the pretence that May might be prepared to walk away without a deal is melting. The bluff was called on day one.

A tragic folly is unfolding. The UK parliament is an international laughing stock, and not because of the silly wigs or the funny hat on a stick.

You Have To Laugh

Christian Zaschke

Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe. The British people were lied to by the Leave campaign and treated like idiots by the popular press. The economic outlook is dire — yet Brexit negotiations have hardly begun.

Britain will withdraw from its main trading alliance. It would make sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. Better to have stayed in the EU in the first place.

The EU is dealing with a government that has no idea what it it wants. The UK had finally found a new place in the world as a strong, awkward, and influential part of the EU. Now it has fallen into an identity crisis, a fit of madness.

2017 June 22

The Queen's Speech

Andrew Grice

Theresa May has delivered a threadbare Queen's Speech that befits her lame government. Most of the measures in her manifesto have been ditched.

The legislative package was dominated by eight measures on Brexit. May has not yet secured a deal with the DUP, so the Government will have to live from hand to mouth in the Commons. The Tory party's civil war on Europe between Europhiles and Brextremists has flared up again.

There may be no majority among MPs for hard Brexit. There will certainly be none if May tries to walk away from the EU negotiations without an agreement. Her "no deal is better than a bad deal" mantra might apply to the DUP talks, but on the Brexit negotiations it is dead.

The House of Lords, which would have swallowed its doubts about hard Brexit if May had enhanced her majority, will now feel no such constraint. Peers will certainly get their teeth into the Repeal Bill, which would allow ministers to change EU laws without full parliamentary scrutiny.

Conservative MPs do not want a general election, but if necessary they will not hesitate to force May out.

Poole Bay
Evening of the longest and hottest day over Poole Bay

Igor Ashurbeyli
Igor Ashurbeyli

"I want to make Mars seem
possible — make it seem as
though it is something that
we can do in our lifetime.
There really is a way that
anyone could go if they
wanted to."
Elon Musk

Suwalki gap
The Sun

Trailer (2:35)

EU More Popular

Pew survey of 10,000 people
across the EU revealed rise
in positive opinions of EU
compared with a year ago:

Germany 68% (up 18 pp)
France 56% (up 18 pp)
UK 54% (up 10 pp)

Brexit Bill

EU estimates presented
to EU27 diplomats:

Full estimate:
€100 billion (€60 billion net)
Minimum demand:
€60 billion (€40 billion net)

Trump under investigation
for possibly obstructing justice
in relation to a criminal probe

Trump tweet: "They made up
a phony collusion with the
Russians story, found zero
proof, so now they go for
obstruction of justice on
the phony story. Nice"

AR Dude's a bozo.



2017 Summer Solstice

Albion Alone

John Sawers

The harder the Brexit, the bigger the cost. The same goes for Britain's role and influence in the world. Leaving the EU removes the platform Britain has this century for projecting its power.

Britain's decline from being the leading power began in 1914 and continued until 1980. The decline resumed after 2008. Brexit threatens to accelerate that decline.

The common thread in British influence since the end of the cold war is our cooperation with France and Germany. The three powers represent Europe and together count for something in the world.

No democratic country can be a power in the world unless it has a thriving economy. We also have to be part of a wider team. Britain on its own will count for little in the west.

We will be part of NATO. But as the US withdraws from global leadership, the regions the US has protected since 1945 have to determine their own defence and security. That includes Europe.

I doubt that our current leaders will countenance a strategic rethink. We need to remain joined to our continental partners. If we can no longer help shape the world, others will do it for us.

2017 June 20



Asgardia is open to all residents on planet Earth and is free to join. Since Igor Ashurbeyli announced his plans to form an independent nation that operates in outer space in October 2016, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up to be citizens.

Asgardia will establish a physical presence in space via a series of satellites. Ashurbeyli says the first will be launched into Earth orbit in September 2017. The data includes things like family photos, says Ashurbeyli.

Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in LEO. Ashurbeyli says our real home is planet Earth: "Going to Mars, the galactics, so on — that's just fake. I intend something more real."


Kepler Science Conference

Since launching in 2009, the NASA Kepler mission has observed more than 200,000 stars in search of exoplanets. Kepler has now identified 4,034 planet candidates, 2,335 of them confirmed as exoplanets and more than 30 of the confirmed planets similar in size to Earth.

The Kepler mission has shown that the smaller exoplanets fall into two distinct sizes: Earth-like planets and super-Earths, and gaseous mini-Neptunes. Altogether, Kepler has found that exoplanets can be cold gas giants, hot Jupiters, ocean worlds, ice giants, lava worlds, and rocky planets.

This is the final catalog detailing exoplanet candidates and confirmations from Kepler mission K1. From 2009 to 2014, Kepler observed part of the constellation Cygnus. Kepler broadened its search in K2 to include other parts of our galaxy. The mission will end in October.

2017 June 19

Emmanuel I of France

Le Figaro

Emmanuel Macron has won. The second round of French legislative elections give his La République En Marche party and its centrist allies 350 of 577 seats. Les Républicains and their allies won 131 seats, the Parti Socialiste 29. Less than 44% of the electorate turned out to vote.

2017 June 18

NATO v Russia

Bojan Pancevski

The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad was surrounded on three sides by NATO forces yesterday in Operation Saber Strike and BALTOPS. The Russian Baltic fleet is based in Kaliningrad and the exclave is defended by nuclear-capable Iskander SRBMs.

The exercises included deployment of B-52, B-1B, and B-2 bombers, showing US commitment "to ready and posture forces focused on deterring conflict". Moscow responded by flying two Tu-160 Blackjack bombers with fighter jets and a spy plane over the Baltic Sea.

Last week the NATO exercises consisted of live fire by heavy artillery in the Suwalki Gap, a 100 km stretch of land between Kaliningrad and Belarus.

US Army commander Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Gventer: "Our focus here is to deter and defend the alliance from aggression by being razor sharp and lethal. God forbid we would have to defend, but we create a deterrent effect by being credible."

2017 June 17

A Great Chancellor


Helmut Kohl (Kanzler 1982—1998) reunited Germany, cemented its role with France at the heart of Europe, and pushed to introduce the euro.

Quantum Networks

IEEE Spectrum

Entanglement is key to quantum networks and quantum cryptography, but it is easily disrupted by interference from the environment. Entangled photons face interference in the lower 10 km or so of the atmosphere but are more isolated in space. A new record for entanglement used a satellite to connect Earth sites separated by up to 1200 km.

The satellite Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) was launched from Jiuquan, China, in 2016 to orbit at an altitude of about 500 km. QUESS generated entangled pairs of photons and transmitted them to ground stations in China. One member of each pair went to one site and the other to another, over distances from 500 to 2000 km.

The record distance was set by photons beamed at the cities of Delingha and Lijiang in China, with experiments achieving 10^17 greater efficiency at transmitting entangled photons than the best optical fibers. The experiments generated about 6 million entangled pairs of photons per second and the researchers detected about 1 pair per second.

Researchers in Germany measured the quantum coherence of laser signals from about 40 Mm away. Physicists at MPI Erlangen, Germany, worked with the Alphasat I-XL satellite in geostationary Earth orbit, which communicates via laser signals with a ground station in Spain. The work suggests global quantum crypto key distribution is feasible.

2017 June 16


The Guardian

In this new addition to the cult of Winston, starring Brian Cox, scripted by Alex von Tunzelmann and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, Churchill betrays his private agony on the eve of D-Day.

AR It worked for me. Refracting the heart of the war leader through a few days in June 1944, the tale steered short of hagiography and made a useful counterpoint to the comparably illuminating Hitler movie Der Untergang.

Brexit Is Dead

Thomas Hüetlin

The Conservative party has lost face. The UK is the most connected country in Europe — look at the financial center in London, UK-based carmakers, what's left of British industry. Continentals have stakes in UK electricity, waterworks, and airports, and supply a quarter of all NHS doctors.

A soft Brexit would let the UK remain a part of the single market. It would mean accepting EU immigration and EU regulations — bad perhaps, but better than no deal at all. With no deal, investors face uncertainty, stunted growth, less trade, and higher taxes.

The promise of Brexit was a fairy tale based on jingoism. Brexit was never a very good idea. Now, in practical terms, it is dead.

Brexit Saved Europe

Jean Quatremer

Watching Brexit unfold is such a pleasure. One year on from the referendum, it is now clear that leaving the EU is exceptionally difficult, carries an undeniable cost, and plays havoc with the politics of the country attempting it.

A victory for leave has shattered the dreams of all the Europhobes and Eurosceptics across the union against the brick wall of reality. So I would like to thank the British people, who have shown a spirit of sacrifice that is greatly to their credit.

Brexit has acted as a deterrent that united Europeans as never before. For the past year, the British political class have revealed their complete recklessness. Brexit amounts to a loss of influence and an abdication of shared sovereignty in the union.

2017 June 15

Trump: The Nightmare

Lili Anolik

Donald Trump is funny. The sheer recklessness of the things he says takes the breath away. He turned everybody on. He spent much of his career on the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry. The guy's played one toilet after another. And in so doing he's honed his common touch.

A billionaire who started out life a millionaire has become the working-class hero. Like, how much of a nitwit is Average Joe for imagining that Trump is his man. Trump is Average Joe except filthy stinking rich, part con man and part ham actor. He isn't a president, he's a reality star.

Trump is a big butch American hot dog. He's a swinging dick and an alpha male, a maker of deals and a builder of buildings. He isn't one of those sissies who need a woman to sign a permission slip before he'll try to hold her hand. Hell no, he grabs pussy first, asks questions later.

Trump feeds off the ardor of his fans, and his best outcome was defeat in a squeaker. Then he'd spend the rest of his days shaking a fist at the system. Instead, victory. Now he's only a short jump to the nightmare: the crowd's love turning into hate, the cheers into jeers.

May: The Cliff

Jenni Russell

Theresa May has accepted responsibility for her profound misjudgment of politics. Over the past year she has been disdainful and delusional. She has utterly failed to recognize the terrifying complexity of withdrawing from the EU, the truth that our economy needs the EU far more than they need us, and the bleak consequences if we crash out without a deal.

The prime minister has no mandate from the public for hard Brexit and no majority in parliament for anything. An eighth of the time on the Brexit clock has been wasted on this election. Europe can either make these talks as productive as possible or so slow and awkward that no deal is made. May can only avert disaster by creating goodwill and building alliances.

A former ambassador: "It's going to get very bitter and twisted over the next 18 months, and she'll need a pool of good faith. She has to understand that it's up to her, because Europe's view is: If they want to drive themselves off a cliff, they're going to find it bloody cold at the bottom."

AR Perhaps it was deliberate: "Let them eat Brexit" — only then can facts prevail.

2017 June 14

View From Denmark

Road to Brexit, Copenhagen

Danish finance minister Kristian Jensen: "There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries that have not yet realised they are small nations. It is a paradox that the country that once had an empire on which the sun never sets, that ruled the waves, that in its heart is truly global, is now drawing back from the world's most successful free trade area."

Jensen reflected on British membership of the G7, the G20, and the UN permanent security council: "There is still this notion in some countries that because they have been the rulers of the 20th century they will continue to be that in the 21st century. They are a member of all these groups, but what has happened to the value of the pound since Brexit? What will happen in the coming years when the finance sector is perhaps looking to Frankfurt or Paris? What will happen when inflation rises? How will they be in the future? I am very concerned about Britain's economy right now."

Denmark has taken Brexit very badly. Danish Chamber of Commerce CEO Jens Klarskov: "I think the response ranges from surprise to repulsion. How can they do that? Would you leave your best friends among enemies? That’s what you've done. We were best pals and now you are leaving us."

Chaotic Brexit

Martin Wolf

The UK is in a spectacular mess. Europhobic obsession over EU membership has brought the country to a crisis. We cannot assume economic life as we know it will continue after a disorderly exit.

There is no binary choice between Remain and Leave. Britain is now uniting Europe against the UK. That is a strategic disaster.

Harold Macmillan understood that the UK had a strategic interest in being part of a strong Europe. The best choice for the UK remains to Remain. All the alternatives are much worse.

The UK is trapped between an EU rock and a hard Brexit. No Brexit is far better than no deal. But a bad deal, or none, lies ahead.

AR What next — a military putsch to impose martial law and abandon Brexit? The putschists would have to be republicans — the Queen might prefer a hard Brexit.

Swanage, UK, 2017-06-13


"I'm backing Theresa May.
Let's get on with the job."
Boris Johnson

"I will continue for as long
as you want me to do so."
Theresa May

Chancellor Hammond
Philip Stephens

Philip Hammond is the only
figure in the cabinet who can
salvage something from the
wreckage of the Brexilection.
Colleagues say Boris Johnson
is plotting a new power grab.
 Hammond is more concerned
with securing a reasonable
outcome to the Brexit

Theresa May
The Times
"Dead woman walking"
George Osborne

B-1B Lancer
USAF B-1B Lancer bombers
deploy to England for
NATO exercises

Snap survey
2 in 3 Conservative party
members say May
should resign

"After this election, there's
no mandate for the hard Brexit
the prime minister put forward
— but there's no mandate to
abandon Brexit either. With
no majority in Parliament,
the government's negotiating
position just got weaker."
Lord Peter Ricketts

May advisers Nick Timothy
and Fiona Hill resign

Open Britain

Evening Standard

Me, Poole count
At the Poole count


2017 June 13

France v Britain

Gideon Rachman

Theresa May will enter the Brexit negotiations gravely weakened after the British general election. Emmanuel Macron is poised to emerge from French elections with a huge parliamentary majority.

Macron will see Brexit as a historic opportunity. Macron has a vision of a revitalized France inside a revitalized EU that works better if Brexit proceeds uninterrupted. Macron wants much deeper EU integration on defense and finance, and Britain has been a brake on European federalism.

Macron needs to show French voters that leaving the EU will bring only pain. If he can also rebuild the Franco-German partnership at the heart of the EU, he can restore the popularity of the European project in France. With Britain out of the EU, there is a better chance of restarting the drive for European integration.

The opportunities for France are economic as much as political. If Britain excludes itself from the EU single market, France has a unique chance to hoover up jobs in finance and manufacturing. Macron has little economic or political incentive to make concessions on migration or money.

As President Macron pursues French interests, he will occupy the moral high ground. Britain has brought its fate upon itself, while he is motivated by a desire to protect the European project.

Get On With It!

Michel Barnier

Next week, it will be three months after the sending of the Article 50 letter. We have not progressed. We must begin this negotiation. We are ready as soon as the UK is ready.

My preoccupation is that time is passing, The subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex. It will take us several months to draw out the conditions of an orderly withdrawal, so let us not waste time.

From my side, there is no spirit of revenge, no punishment, no naivety either. There is truth on what Brexit means, what leaving the EU signifies by its consequences. The citizens have the right to know this truth.

AR We could invite Barnier to serve as guest UK prime minister.

2017 June 12

France Is Back

The Times

President Macron strengthened his grip on power as his centrist party La République En Marche swept to an overwhelming victory in the first round of parliamentary elections. The party is on course to secure a landslide of between 415 and 445 of the 577 seats in the national assembly.

AR This is what the UK needs — a new hero, a new party, new hope.

A Softer Tone

Financial Times

Theresa May faces a showdown with re-elected Conservative MPs today. The party civil war on Europe may be about to reignite as she tries to negotiate a deal with the DUP.

May had to abandon plans for a sweeping cabinet reshuffle, including the expected sacking of her chancellor Philip Hammond. Instead most of her senior team stay in place.

She has appointed Damian Green (PPE, Oxford, and a staunch pro-European) as first secretary of state, in effect deputy PM. He will play a key role in setting Brexit policy.


Fintan O'Toole

Theresa May saw that the popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. Boris Johnson promised that Britain could have its cake and eat it. After the election, the unified people would have a unified parliament and a strong leader to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

All May had to do was repeat the words "strong and stable" over and over and Labour would be crushed forever. Britain would become one-party state, and Europe would bow and concede a Brexit deal in which supplies of cake would be infinitely renewed. There were three problems:

1 May demanded an enormous majority so that she could ride out into the Brexit battle without having to worry about mutterings in the ranks behind her. But to win an election, you need a convincing narrative.

2 The Conservatives tried to build a personality cult around a robotic politician. The party has plunged the UK into an existential crisis because it was too weak to stand up to a few nationalist zealots and tabloid press barons.

3 The idea of a single British people united by the Brexit vote is ludicrous. Not only do Scotland, Northern Ireland, and London have large anti-Brexit majorities, but many of those who did vote for Brexit are deeply unhappy about the effects of government austerity policies.

May will form a government with the support of the DUP. That government will be weak and unstable and it will have no real authority to negotiate an agreement with the European Union. Brexit is thus far from being a done deal.


Camilla Cavendish

Theresa May went into the contest seeking a stronger negotiating hand with the EU. But she had nothing to say about Brexit that she wanted to share with the electorate. She gave the impression that we should trust her to get the deal done, not worry our silly little heads about the detail.

The manifesto failed because May and her inner circle rebuffed almost every single person who offered advice. They forgot the golden rule of political survival: listen. Her presidential campaign kept ministers away from the cameras and put her before candidates on their own leaflets.

Anyone with the interests of the country at heart would be building a cross-party and business alliance to tackle Brexit. Instead, we have delusion and denial. It cannot be long before May is challenged for the leadership.


David Papineau

Since Galilieo, science has been one long success story. It has uncovered the workings of nature and brought untold benefits to humanity. Philosophy has done less well.

But philosophers hand things over to scientists. All new sciences start as branches of philosophy, and only become established as separate disciplines once philosophy has bequeathed them the intellectual capital to survive on their own.

Physics as we know it was grounded in the mechanical philosophy of Descartes and others. Whenever philosophy makes progress, it spawns a new subject, which then no longer counts as part of philosophy. So philosophy is full of progress.

Philosophical problems arise within science as well as outside it. The interpretation of quantum mechanics is a scientific question that admits no simple experimental resolution. We need a coherent theory to accommodate the data.

Philosophical issues typically have the form of a paradox. Scientific theories can be infected by paradox too. The quantum wave packet must collapse, but this violates physical law. Here philosophical methods are called for, to figure out where our thinking is leading us astray.

One of the great scandals of our time is the way physicists have brushed the problems of quantum mechanics under the carpet. Generations of students were told that the glaring inconsistencies apparent in the theory were none of their business. Shut up and calculate was the line.

Most people dislike banging their heads against nasty paradoxes. But someone has to do it. Philosophers take on the hard questions.

AR Quantum paradoxes? I'm onto them.

2017 June 11

Did Higgs Blow Up The Universe?

New Scientist

The universe began as a hot speck of energy and inflated quantum fluctuations to form stars and galaxies.

1 Fedor Bezrukov and Mikhail Shaposhnikov show how the Higgs boson could be the inflaton. The Higgs field could have inflated the tiny cosmos exponentially, in a fraction of a second, by nearly as much as it did in the following 13.8 billion years. The Higgs potential curve is shaped like a dip with a bump in the middle. The Higgs comes to rest in the dip to one side and gives mass to other particles. If the side of the dip has a flat shelf around it, the Higgs could sit there and flood the universe with extreme antigravity.

2 Juan García-Bellido says a tweaked Higgs potential implies a second scalar particle, the dilaton. The expansion of the universe is accelerating, and the dilaton field could provide the boost to expansion. The dilaton would prevent the Higgs mass from dilating too much but itself would be massless. Dark energy would be its main effect in the universe.

3 Alexander Kusenko says the Higgs field could have been much stronger during inflation. As the field relaxed, it could distinguish between particles and antiparticles, leaving more matter than antimatter, which would otherwise have annihilated each other to leave an empty universe.

AR Neat — three wins at once!

2017 June 10

Deal with the DUP

BBC, 1951 BST

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed in principle a "confidence and supply" deal to support a Conservative government.

Deal with the DUP?

The Telegraph

Theresa May is in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland about forming a minority government. The DUP holds 10 of Northern Ireland's 18 Westminster seats. DUP leader Arlene Foster is keen to avoid a hard border with Ireland and has spoken against a hard Brexit.

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson: "This is perfect territory for the DUP because obviously if the Conservatives are just short of an overall majority it puts us in a very strong negotiating position. Certainly that is one we would take up with relish."

Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971. The party opposed 1981 talks between Margaret Thatcher and Irish prime minister Charles Haughey, and tried to create a Protestant loyalist volunteer militia to fight the IRA. The DUP opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Following the Troubles, the DUP withdrew from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in protest when Sinn Fein was allowed to participate while the IRA had not been disarmed. The DUP opposed the agreement in a subsequent referendum in which 71% of the electorate approved the agreement.

The DUP is populist and socially conservative: it is anti-abortion, opposes same-sex marriage, and formerly campaigned against the legalisation of homosexual acts in Northern Ireland. It aims to defend Ulster Protestant culture against Irish nationalism and backs Brexit.

The Independent described the DUP as backed by terrorists. The New York Times called it a hard-line reactionary party.

Form British National Unity Government

FT View

Theresa May had decided that Britain would never accept free movement of people or the authority of the European Court of Justice. The UK would not remain in the single market or even the customs union. Beyond that, her message was — trust me and I will deliver.

The voters have said no. But the Brexit negotiations are set to begin in less than a fortnight. The talks cannot simply be kicked into the long grass until the Conservative party elects a new leader. None of the obvious successors seem likely to be unifying figures, and another general election would probably only confirm a deeply divided country.

The Brexit negotiations put a high premium on having a government that can speak firmly and unequivocally. A national unity government, made up of ministers from both major parties, would create a stronger negotiating position — with a softer vision of Brexit.

AR Forming a NUG next week will be hard on the whips.

May Must Share Power

Paul Goodman

Theresa May has governed mainly through powerful cabinet committees and through her two chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Now both are gone, she needs one new chief of staff who can command authority in the parliamentary party.

May has treated cabinet members as instruments of her will. She should appoint a deputy prime minister and co-govern with the Chancellor, the home secretary, the foreign secretary, the Brexit secretary, the chief whip, and a new party chairman.

May needs to work more closely with the 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady. She needs to bring policy making closer to MPs and the Conservative Policy Forum. The 1922 Committee should be represented on the Downing Street Policy Board.

May should invite the Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson to attend Political Cabinet, just as Boris Johnson did when he was Mayor of London.

Assuming that May can form a workable minority government, she needs to try to gain as much support as possible across the party divide.

May We Criticize?

Jay Elwes

Theresa May shunned others and tried to make a virtue of it. She had no political friends. But her real failure was to misunderstand the country she wanted to lead.

May urged people to vote for her so that she might "fulfill the promise of Brexit" and to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations. She portrayed the Brussels bureaucrats as intent on frustrating her attempt to free the UK from their deadening clutches. Her language became increasingly confrontational as she hinted at something close to a diplomatic war with the EU.

But we are not at war on the continent. Neither are we in a position to show up at international meetings and dominate. And yet this seemed to be the entirety of her Brexit plan. Britain would simply state its demands and the Europeans would agree to them — or no deal.

May seemed to think that what people needed was to be told off and shoved in the right direction. When she took office, she immediately set up two vast new government departments: one to negotiate Brexit, the other to hammer out new trade deals. Brexit was a sort of nationalism, where everyone knew that Britain was supreme and foreigners were to be dominated.

The prime minister wanted to sail the ship of state into a future that looked very much like its glorious past. Her worldview is fifty years out of date.

AR Before the Summer of Love?

Whips Get Cracking!

Matthew Parris

Theresa May miscalculated badly in calling an election. She then mismanaged the conduct of the election. She has lost public trust and lost her authority to govern. In its merciless and underhand way, the incoming parliamentary Conservative Party will soon be making that clear to her. So let the sane centrists find their collective voice now before the Europhobes and their opportunist hitchhikers like Boris Johnson mobilize.

AR Parris detests Boris.

2017 June 9

Weak and Wobbly

Jörg Schindler

As the election approached, May repeated her slogan "strong and stable" ad nauseam, to the point that it became a joke. The reasonable response to the election results would be for her to resign. But Brexit negotiations are set to begin on June 19.

The front between the UK and the EU27 member states has hardened. A Brexit without an agreement would be bitter for the EU but disastrous for the UK. Britain could use a strong and stable leader.

Europe Must Act

Joris Luyendijk

When it comes to Brexit the UK is like a child that just will not see reason. The EU must therefore start preparing to impose its own solution.

The Brexit referendum campaign was waged with lies, manipulation and delusional promises, leading millions of Britons to vote for an option that was not on the menu: have cake and eat it.

This election could have been the moment when Britain made a choice between have cake and sail into hard Brexit or eat cake and accept all the rules of the single market.

This was not what Labour or the Conservatives offered. Both all but avoided Brexit during the campaign. This is the state of denial that Britain is still in.

Brussels cannot afford to risk the integrity and coherence of the single market by giving Britain a sweet deal. But nor can it risk total economic meltdown in the UK.

Maybe Not

The Evening Standard

Theresa May has been forced into a deal with Northern Ireland MPs to save her from an ignominious departure from 10 Downing Street.

May: "Having secured the largest number of votes it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the certainty and legitimacy commanding a majority in the House of Commons."

Conservative MPs seethed that she had tossed away her Commons majority in a catastrophic gamble. Many thought she would be out in two years or less.

May is now in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is expected to drive a hard bargain as May rang its leader to strike the sort of bargain she had jeered at as a "coalition of chaos".

The Commons was divided as follows: Conservatives, 318 (-12); Labour, 261 (+29); SNP, 35 (-21); Liberal Democrats, 12 (+4); DUP, 10 (+2); Others, 13. One seat is yet to call. Turnout was 32,159,240 (68.74%). UKIP was crushed and its leader quit.

A night of shock sent sterling plunging 2% against the dollar and the euro as the world weighed the implications for Brexit negotiations.

Donald Tusk‏ tweet:
We don't know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a "no deal" as result of "no negotiations".

AR Instant karma ..

Hung Parliament

The Times

Theresa May's gamble on a snap election failed. She has not won a majority, but she remains prime minister until she either attempts and fails to form a government or she resigns.

The Conservatives will remain in government until it is agreed who will try to form a new government or unless May resigns. She will have the first go at assembling a majority.

Frantic talks are expected over coming days as parties scramble to try and agree deals. A new government must test whether it can command the confidence of the House.

The Queen's speech is scheduled for Monday June 19. Brexit talks are also set to begin on June 19.

"Wow. So good Labour stronger. So good Brutal Brexit rejected. So good next generation realized the stakes and spoke up."
David Miliband

"Theresa May anointed herself Empress of Brexit. Now her authority is shot."
Rafael Behr


Khor Al Adaid, Qatar
The New York Times

President Trump has taken sides with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states to bully Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen cut ties to Qatar mainly because Qatar has a relationship with Shiite Iran.
On Wednesday, Daesh claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Tehran at the Iranian parliament and the Khomeini mausoleum.
Qatar hosts the forward HQ of US Central Command, a major intelligence hub, and a big US air base.
There is no sign that Trump has thought any of this through.

"You don't win a culture war
with facts. Heroes wanted.
Conflict wanted. Goals
wanted. Dreams wanted.
Tell me a story I want
to be part of."
Marina Hyde

Jeremy Corbyn
The Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn
"I want us to have a decent
and harmonious community
in Britain .. The best way of
dealing with a negative
campaign is to be

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande

Zeit, die Indoktrination mit
islamistischem Gedankengut
wirkungsvoll zu bekämpfen

London horror
The Times
More London horror
by global jihadi
death cult

"The EU remains the most extraordinary, ambitious,
liberal political alliance in
recorded history. It has over-
seen unprecedented peace
and prosperity for 70 years.
It is the dream trading bloc
and a heroic project."
Ian McEwan

"The European Union must
resist the temptation to
punish Britain and approach
the negotiations in a
constructive spirit ..
Britain is a parliamentary
democracy. Within five years
it has to hold another general
election and the next
parliament may vote to be
reunited with Europe."
George Soros



2017 June 8

Beginning: Brexit Catastrophe

Jenni Russell

The electorate is going to the polls today in a state of blissful ignorance over the catastrophe that is about to hit the UK.

Theresa May called an election to give herself a mandate for her version of Brexit. She has told the electorate nothing new about how she intends to do it, about how Britons will be poorer and more highly taxed if she keeps to her plan to leave both the single market and the customs union, or the devastation that will follow if she walks away from the table without a deal. Her victory will be based on evasion and soothing visions.

Her decision to interpret 52% as licence for a hard Brexit is as outrageous as if the Remainers had won a narrow victory and immediately decided to join the euro, the Schengen travel area, and an EU army, declaring that no discussion was needed because this was the people's will.

For a year we have been in a phoney Brexit. Six months ago we were the fastest-growing economy in the G7, but figures from the G7 last week show we are tying with Italy for the slowest growth as the EZ forges ahead of us. HM Treasury says an agreed Brexit will make us £36 billion a year poorer by 2032 and a no-deal exit will cost £45 billion.

May and her people view the EU as opponents. Under her government the Brexit fires are starting to burn.

2017 June 7


Martin Wolf

White House advisers HR McMaster and Gary Cohn write: "The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a 'global community' but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it."

Earth is not just an arena. It is our shared home. It does not belong to one nation, even a powerful one. Looking after the planet is the moral responsibility of all.

AR Wolf is right, of course.


Edward Luce

Theresa May has had trouble spelling out what a post-EU Britain would look like. Brexiteers propose recapturing the spirit of an earlier Elizabethan age, when plucky English buccaneers forged pathways to the New World. This is a delusion.

The elites, not the people, have led the British retreat from Europe and the world. Most of them started their careers as student political hacks, and the ties they forged nourished their political careers. What they lacked in global experience they substituted with London networking.

Brussels could cope with a nasty divorce. Britain could not. Yet May seems to be going out of her way to rub the Europeans the wrong way. Thanks to her, the EU27 are now of one mind.

AR May must see this.

2017 June 6


Melanie Phillips

Islamist terrorism is not a perversion of Islam. The West equates religion with spirituality. But Islam is as much a political ideology as a source of spiritual guidance.

Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi: "The scriptures are exactly what is pushing these people to behead the infidel. Our books teach the beheading of people."

Jihadist Islam is dominant once again in the Muslim world. Islamists believe their values represent the word of God. For them, no other values can possibly be superior.

We must see jihadist Islam as at the extreme end of a continuum of beliefs that are incompatible with British society. We should close down radical mosques, deport those born in other countries who are involved in extremism, stop foreign funding for Muslim institutions, and ban the Muslim Brotherhood. We should also outlaw Sharia courts.

Jihadist terrorists are not trying to divide us, destroy our values, or stop the general election. They are trying to kill us and conquer us.

AR Islamism is a global military threat. Kill the jihadis before they kill us. And forget the British spin — they threaten all Western societies. Unite or be conquered.


Roger Cohen

For a long time I could not bring myself to write about the British election. The June 8 vote was a formality. The Labour Party was in meltdown. The British, their ludicrous vote to leave the European Union gradually sinking in, would give May her mandate.

Suddenly, we have an election after all. The expected Tory landslide has evaporated. May embraced a hard Brexit and came up with a dementia tax to punish people for living too long. Opinion polls now put Corbyn within a few percentage points of May.

A Labour victory would punish the Tories for the disaster of Brexit.

AR It would also lead to chaos and confusion — economic mayhem, loss of control of national debt, rank amateurs in government, weakness on Russia and Islam — not good.

2017 June 5

Terror Attack

Theresa May

We are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face. Perpetrators are copying one another and often using crude means of attack. Things need to change:

1 The recent attacks are connected by the evil ideology of Islamist extremism. It is an ideology that claims our western values are incompatible with Islam. It will only be defeated when we make people understand that our values are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.

2 We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. We need to work with allied democratic governments to prevent the spread of extremism. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.

3 There is far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. We need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. The whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism.

4 We have a robust counter-terrorism strategy. We need to review our strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need. We may need to increase the length of custodial sentences for terrorist-related offences.

Our country has made progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public. Our society should continue to function in accordance with our values. We must come together, we must pull together, and united we will take on and defeat our enemies.

AR United in solidarity with other Europeans facing the same threat.

2017 June 4

Causal Emergence

Natalie Wolchover

Erik Hoel has published an essay that aims to explain how consciousness and agency arise. He claims that causes can emerge at macroscopic scales, and that macro states of a physical system such as a brain can have more causal power than a micro description of the system.

Hoel shows that macro scales gain causal power rather like error-correcting codes increase the amount of information that can be sent over data channels. Macro states reduce noise and uncertainty in a causal structure, making system behavior more deterministic.

Giulio Tononi conceives of consciousness as information encoded not in the states of individual neurons but in the complex networking of neurons into ensembles in the brain. His integrated information theory (IIT) aims to characterize consciousness.

Tononi tasked Hoel with exploring the mathematical relationship between the size of neural groups and information. Hoel quantified the causal power of brain states by measuring causation in bits. His measure, effective information (EI), is simpler and more general than integrated information.

Scott Aaronson: "It was hard for me to find anything in the essay that the world's most orthodox reductionist would disagree with. Yes, of course you want to pass to higher abstraction layers in order to make predictions, and to tell causal stories that are predictively useful — and the essay explains some of the reasons why."

Physicists say causation starts with interactions between elementary particles. It originates at the micro level and is merely easier to discuss at the macro level.

AR I tried to explain my Mindworlds model of consciousness to Aaronson at TSC 2001 (Skoevde) and to Tononi at ASSC XIII (Berlin, 2009).

2017 June 3

Earth Report

Martin Rees

On Earth, 4 billion years of evolution led eventually to technology and the world we live in today. The direction of travel is almost certainly toward a posthuman world. After a few millennia of gradually expanding technology generated by human beings, maybe there will be billions of years more when the dominant technology is entirely inorganic.

Mars is far less clement than the South Pole, and not many people want to live there. Robots are becoming more sophisticated, and all the science can be done by robots just as well as by human beings. Huge fabricators up in space will assemble telescope dishes and solar energy collectors.

The collective effect that we are having as a species is causing changes to the atmosphere and the climate. A second class of threats arises because the world of things is more interconnected. The biotechnology issue is scary too.

Scientific advisors have a limited impact on political leaders. The Pope raised concerns about the risks to biodiversity and to climate from the heavier footprint of the rising human population and said people have an obligation to nature. That statement was an important input to the Paris conference on climate change in December 2015.

Brexit Britain

Patrick Cockburn

Brexit is the most important single development in British foreign policy since declaring war on Germany in 1939, and arguably the worst unforced error ever in British history.

Britain is leaving the EU on the absurd assumption that the EU-27 will give it a sweetheart deal. Since 1940, the UK has ridden tall on US power, but this free ride is gone with America First.

AR Millions of British voters expressed indifference or contempt for the European idea in June 2016. Nationally, this was a shameful revelation of factual ignorance and moral turpitude.

2017 June 2

A Disgraceful Exit

The New York Times

President Trump has an incredibly shortsighted approach to climate change. He said the Paris agreement was a bad deal for the United States. Yet it is a voluntary agreement under which more than 190 countries offered aspirational emissions targets, pledged their best efforts to meet them, and agreed to give periodic updates on how they were doing.

Trump clearly knows nothing or cares little about the science underlying the stark warnings of environmental disruption, about the problems that disruption could bring, or about the fact that America has a special obligation to help the rest of the world address these issues.

Trump clings to the false narrative that environmental regulations are job killers, that efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions will hurt the economy, that the way forward lies in yet more burning of fossil fuels. Yet the global transition from fossil fuels has opened up a huge market estimated at $6 trillion by 2030, for renewable fuels, electric cars, and new technologies.

Big economic benefits flow from protecting human health and the environment. Technologies are improving and the business community is ready. About two-thirds of Americans are worried about climate change and wanted to stay in the Paris agreement.

Weather News


The Weather Channel greeted the White House news with every ounce of righteous outrage it deserved. Its top nine stories were all devoted to the topic. Two of them covered the announcement. The other seven methodically explained exactly why it was so misguided and why it matters.

The Weather Channel network has concluded that climate change poses a threat that transcends partisan politics. Its stories illustrated the damage climate change is poised to wreak and gave a science-based refutation of the notion that the threat is overstated or hypothetical.

Third LIGO Detection

New Scientist

The LIGO collaboration has made its third observation of gravitational waves emanating from a pair of merging black holes. This pair was about 3 billion light years away.

LIGO detects ripples in spacetime caused by moving masses. The spins of merging black holes can warp those waveforms, which are mostly produced by their orbits and eventual collision.

For the first event, we did not have enough information to determine spin direction of the black holes. For the second, we saw that each black hole was probably spinning in the same direction. For this third pair, they are probably spinning in different directions.

Black hole binaries are either born together from a pair of orbiting stars or they form separately in a stellar cluster and drift together. In the first case, the pair should rotate in the same direction as they orbit. In the second, they can point in any directions.

2017 June 1

Global Enemy #1

President Trump
pulls America out of the Paris agreement.

Zooming the Sun


Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 6 Gm of the surface of the Sun, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, PSP will provide new data on solar activity and increase our ability to forecast major space weather events that impact life on Earth.

PSP explores the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a scientific spacecraft. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause $2 trillion in damage in the United States alone.

Physics of Time


General Relativity and the Standard Model are based on time-symmetric laws. The eternal cosmos spanning all of spacetime is sometimes called the block universe.

Andreas Albrecht says that to understand the distinction between past, present and future, you have to ask how an observer perceives time.

Avshalom Elitzur: "The future does not exist .. Ontologically, it's not there."

Lee Smolin: "The future is not now real and there can be no definite facts of the matter about the future."

Sean Carroll: "The entropy of the universe will be larger tomorrow than it is today. But if that was all you knew, you'd also say that the entropy of the universe was probably larger yesterday than today — because all the underlying dynamics are completely symmetric with respect to time."

George Ellis says the universe is a growing volume of spacetime. Its surface is the present moment and represents the instant where the indefiniteness of the future changes to the definiteness of the past. One can see the direction of time by looking at which part of the universe is fixed (the past) and which is changing (the future). This is a GR block universe with a future boundary in the present.

Rafael Sorkin says that in causal set theory spacetime is discrete rather than continuous. Planck scale atoms of spacetime form a partially ordered set. The number of these atoms gives rise to the volume of spacetime, while their sequence gives rise to time. New spacetime atoms are continually coming into existence.

AR I'm writing a paper on the physics of time — and I pretty much agree with all the views above.


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